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    Thursday, 02 May 2013 11:06

    NBFF 2013 / And Now A Word From Our Sponsor

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    movie posterCan a one-liner become an entire movie?  The short answer is, no.   The audience only laughs once.  That’s the biggest flaw in Zack Birnbaum’s directorial debut, “And Now A Word From Our Sponsor,” which was screened for only the second time before a live audience yesterday at the Newport Beach film festival.

    The film has dramatic, heartfelt moments which are salvaged mainly by good acting on the park of Parker Posey who plays Karen Hillridge, a hospital charity administrator whose relationship with her daughter Megan (Allie MacDonald) is strained by the loss of the family’s patriarch two years prior.

    The story opens with heavy weight advertising icon Adan Kundle collapsing in front of a bank of televisions in an electronics store.  He awakens in a hospital, alert and functional, but he speaks only in advertising slogans.  When Adan opens the tray covering his hospital breakfast and sees a dry piece of toast and a single, hard boiled egg he remarks, “How do you handle a hungry man?”

    The film demands that the viewer assume Adan understands the world around him, indeed sees it more clearly than ever before, and that his chosen slogans represent great wisdom and insight gleaned from his decades of controlling the masses via slick marketing campaigns combined with some shadowy incident creating post traumatic stress disorder.  The combination creates a modern day messiah ala Chauncey Gardner whose guilt-driven mental illness creates some higher state of egoless, non-material consciousness.

    Karen, who coincidentally studied marketing in a seminar taught by Adan, offers to take him in her home for a week when the hospital needs his bed and Adan must wait for a spot to open at a ritzy mental heath facility.  Newly installed in Karen’s house, Adan’s snappy advertising slogans are immediately apropos to the strained relationship between Karen and Megan, whose highly sexual interest in her teenage boyfriend seems designed to spite her mother more than to satisfy any carnal lust of her own.

    The movie’s villain, Lucas Foster, played by Callum Blue, whose starched shirts and suspenders are a Gordon Gekko reinvention that he fails to evoke, runs the Ad Agency that Adan abandoned a year earlier when he simply “disappeared.”  Lucas tries to buy Adan out of the business (which makes no real-word sense since the company is controlled by a board of directors) and install himself as CEO of the big operation on a top floor of Chicago’s Hancock building.  But Adan, Christ-like in his denial of all things material, simply blurts out more slogans in response to the tempting offer.  So Lucas resolves to have Adan certified as mentally ill to clear his own path to the top.

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    Karen, now somehow fond of Adan, comes to his aide, rejects Lucas’s manipulative romantic advances and, busy with all this and her own work, leaves Megan to baby sit Adan.  She implores Megan not to let him watch television, but Megan takes a nap and Adan has a near seizure with flashbacks of the trauma that, we assume, precipitated his disappearance.   Alone again with Megan and her boyfriend, who gets a bit too aggressive, Adan dons a Clint Eastwood poncho and saves Megan from a pending date-rape.

    Suddenly the three are a family, and the ensuing day in the country leads to a bonding moment between Karen and Megan that is at the core of the movie, which demands thematic acknowledgement of the fact that one cannot simply “change channels” in this life.   Some realities must be faced, and even people we love and consider innocent cannot be spared from life’s cruelties because to shelter them from harm is to sell them a false image promulgating ever more harm.

    The film succeeds in delivering that message without seeming trite because of the chemistry between Posey and MacDonald.  When it comes to the bigger question of the relationship between image, advertising, greed, manipulation, and the human condition, any trite conclusion is avoided by simply not offering one.

    The ambiguous ending leaves Adan devoid of any real character arc.  The filmmakers seem content to let Adan exist as some magical figure without giving us any genuine insight into how the magic happens or why.  The result is a fictional world that doesn’t play by its own rules.

    Surely there is an advertising slogan penned in the post war era that Adan might use to sum up his re-invented self.  It’s never offered.

    How do you handle an audience hungry for meaning and consistency in your film?  You’ve got to butter their toast.

    Read 1610 times Last modified on Wednesday, 05 August 2015 16:17

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