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Hell Is Other People

February 16, 2013

Cinequest 2010

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It turns out that Morty IS the HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE.  Morty embodies everything in ourselves that we dislike.  And yet Morty, perhaps because he IS us, is someone we can’t quite help loving.

A clumsily manipulative loser, Morty shuffles through this film pissing off his friends, offending strangers, and generally making sure he never gets ahead.  “Sounds like you’ve got some stuff to work out,” says one character to Morty.  Don’t we all.  And if we’re not working through things now, everyone has at some point in their life – which is why we all cringe as Morty lets himself be degraded by one of the crazier characters in the film after he has run out of people to manipulate on his own.

If this is a mumblecore film, it is most definitely a mumblecore of a different sort.  The lilting Tennessee accents of the characters quickly drew me in, and even with the sometimes blurry handheld camera work the film has a beauty that director Jarrod Whaley’s incredibly touching documentary short PASSION FLOWER also exhibited.  There was a clear path to the story (a downward spiral, but still), the characters had dialog of value to speak, and there was a great deal of humor amidst the sadness that is Morty.

I thought the acting was outstanding for a group of Chattanooga residents that Whaley sort of rounded up on his own.  I think this is what separates this film from the typical “mumblecore” that I get stuck unhappily viewing.  Morty and his ex-girlfriend were natural and believable to the point that I felt I was watching a documentary shot from a long distance lens.  There are other crazily quirky characters who add a great deal of humor to the film and are invaluable to the film as a whole.

It is too bad that Richard Johnson (Morty) could not attend Cinequest as he would have added an incredible presence to the film festival and possibly drawn more attention to the film.  The Repertory Theatre was not packed but should have been; this is one of the better (though quieter) films of the festival and you should put one of the future screenings on your schedule.  As the camera focuses for one last time on the main character and the credits roll, one audience member shouted “Your life SUCKS, Morty!”  Yes, yes it does, but this film is a beautiful winner.

Now available on Jarrod’s website.

From → Reviews

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