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To Jennifer

Review by: 
Colossal Olmec Head
Release Date: 
2013
Studio: 
Psykik Junky Pictures
Genre: 
Found Footage
Format: 
DVD
Region: 
1 NTSC
Aspect Ratio: 
1.33:1
Directed by: 
James Cullen Bressack
Cast: 
Chuck Pappas
James Cullen Bressack
Movie: 
3
Extras: 
0
Bottom Line: 
3
Video: 
Click to Play

In a film-making era where $5,000,000 can be considered 'low budget', this film is shot, and purportedly edited, entirely on an iPhone 5.  Images will grainy, obscure when they aren't grainy, darkly lit when they aren't overly lit, and handheld throughout the entire run-time of the film.  A merely above-average YouTube clip will have drastically higher production values than this movie.   And yet I was intrigued because the creators of this movie pose a simple question.  Can you, in fact, create an engaging movie which you will finance exclusively from funds gathered from under the floor mats of your sister's Corolla?  In this case, the answer is 'Yes'. 

How did the creators do it?  For one thing, the film's concept embraces the found-footage style by making it the central conceit.  The film opens in Joey's bedroom.  Convinced that Jennifer, his girlfriend of two years, has cheated on him, he speaks directly to the camera explaining how he intends to record for her an extended hand-held tribute to his discovery of her infidelity.  Joey (Pappas) recruits his cousin, Stevie (Bressack), from bed in the wee dark hours of the morning to assist him in his mission to catch his beloved in the act and then present her with his video proof of her grave offense to his dignity.

This is a long-distance relationship, so Joey and Stevie will catch a plane flight.  It isn't beneath Stevie to taunt the air-nervous Joey about airborne catastrophe after they board.  Your first real hint of Joey's brittle character will be revealed here when he suffers a panic attack and has to be removed from the plane upon arrival.  The scene then shifts to a hospital room where Joey must recover following his 3-day psych evaluation.  Finally released from the ward, they contact a local friend, Martin.  Martin is only reluctantly recruited to Joey's Jennifer mission, and, like any real good buddy, tries his best to divert Joey by getting him laid.  Martin's diversionary efforts will lead them to a drunken party attended by what can only be generously described as skanks, the term here being applied to both genders.  While it appears at first that Joey has been diverted when he pairs off with one of the women, he ends up instead in a brawl with one of the men getting his ass whupped in the process. 

My own notes tell me that the film doesn't actually introduce Jennifer until the movie has already passed the one hour mark.  Yet she is the prime focus of Joey's mania, the emotional eddy around which the story swirls.  This tension building technique isn't original.  In The Third Man (1949), written by Graham Greene, the central character is a man known as Harry Lime.  Portrayed by Orson Welles, Lime's character doesn't appear on screen until deep into the tale, and the extended search for Lime keeps the story taut.  I do not mean to draw direct comparisons from that cinema classic to the paraprofessional effort at hand.  But whether consciously adopted or merely stumbled upon, the artifice of withholding from the audience that same prize which is so dearly sought by the main character achieves a similar goal.

Don't look for professional-grade acting in the main characters.  That is the opposite of the intent in any case.  The extras appear to have been grabbed, or, in the case of two hookers Martin procures, purchased, straight off the street.  Professional makeup will be lacking.  But rough looks, scruffy beards, pimples and blackheads add up to a verisimilitude that might be absent from a better financed film.  There will be blood and death though that result is also withheld until the climax of the film.  Unlike far too many higher budgeted movies, this one exceeds its extraordinary budgetary handicaps by never forgetting the alpha and omega:  story first, story last.  This one's worth a watch if only to see what can be created  from little more than a creative mind and the phone already in your pocket even now.  

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