Ardustry Home Entertainment // 2004 // 88 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // December 23rd, 2005
A Student, His Teacher, Crossing Boundaries.
Rob Moretti's Crutch is the kind of film I feel bad for not liking. It's awfully sincere, and, darn it, everyone involved tries real hard, but the movie still comes up short. Good intentions aren't always enough.
The film follows a 16-year old named David (Eben Gordon), an aspiring actor and mixed-up young man whose family is breaking apart. Dad is having an affair, Mom is an alcoholic, and David's caught in the middle. He finds himself drawn in by his new acting teacher, Kenny (Rob Moretti, the film's writer/director), a washed-up thirty-something actor, and discovers feelings within himself that he didn't know existed. As the two begin their tormented romance, Kenny introduces David to the world of drug addiction and both men find themselves spiraling out of control.
Is this a movie about addiction? I'm not so sure. Yes, it plays a heavy role -- from the mother, to David, to Kenny, there are a number of characters who depend on drugs or alcohol to get by in the film. The movie's title, Crutch, seems to suggest it as well. To me, though, there's something else going on at the movie's core: this is a story about a predator and his victim, plain and simple. David is only a teenager, and the far older and more experienced Kenny seduces him. What happens is a crime. Why, I ask, does Moretti not pay more attention to this idea? When David and Kenny finally make love for the first time, the camera is allowed to linger over their shirtless bodies, their roving hands, their mouths kissing. It is designed as a scene of liberation for David, whose sexuality is freed by his mentor -- Kenny is his sexual guide. Wrong. Kenny is a predator and a criminal; he doesn't liberate David, he controls and victimizes him. I know that Moretti sees and understands all of this -- it's the reason that the movie (which is based quite directly on the director's own experiences) exists in the first place. My issue is that the movie fails to communicate it.
Writer/director Moretti's screenplay is, at times, so personal that it does a disservice to the movie; it ceases to be a story and becomes a problem-by-problem account of just how screwed up he was for a while. Scene after scene, the narrative degenerates into a repetitive pattern: David drinks, David fights with someone, David cries, David does drugs, repeat. After a while, the film seems to eschew drama in favor of shrillness; the actors are reduced to little more than swearing, shouting, and slamming doors -- throwing tantrums becomes their sole function. Moretti loses the audience in the process, determined to find catharsis but failing to connect the more he does so. It becomes hard not to get the distinct feeling that it doesn't matter how we respond to the material -- that Moretti is making this movie for himself and no one else. And while I wouldn't want to deny him his cinematic confessional, I do fall into the "else" category. The movie isn't for me.
Crutch comes to DVD courtesy of Ardustry, as yet another example of just how monumental the popularity of the format has been in giving access to independent films. It's a note I harp on every time I review a small movie like this, but it's one worth repeating: whether or not I like the films doesn't matter, only that DVD allows me to see them in the first place. Having said that, I should also point out that the technical merits of these low-budget indies can often be found wanting, as in the case of Crutch. The film is presented in a letterboxed 2.35:1 image that doesn't really hold up; there is very little detail and a number of stabilization issues when it comes to darker shots. While a 5.1 audio track is available (as well as a standard stereo track), nearly all of the audio is concentrated in the center front speaker -- the surround capabilities aren't put to any use. A couple of deleted scenes are on hand, but add little to filling in story holes or character backgrounds. The only other bonus feature is a small collection of trailers from other Ardustry releases.
Crutch isn't a bad film, just a misguided and confused one. Perhaps that's appropriate, as those qualities reflect both the main character and the state of mind of its writer/director. Rob Moretti's propensity to lay himself completely bare for his art is admirable in a way. The performances, while a little amateurish, are earnest and rather raw. None of this adds up to an effective movie, however. I suppose it's another of those cases where I may admire the effort, but can't appreciate the product.
Review content copyright © 2005 Patrick Bromley; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Ardustry Home Entertainment
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* Bonus Trailers
* Official Site