Heretic Films // 2004 // 85 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brendan Babish (Retired) // April 10th, 2008
For kinky sex addicts.
Dear Pillow is a film about lower-middle-class individuals and the varying ways they use pornography to escape the daily drudgery of their lives. Keep in mind, Dear Pillow is not about pornography in and of itself, and the film is certainly not about sex; there is no nudity and surprisingly little explicit material. Dear Pillow is about the idea of pornography. As such, it manages to be both surprisingly tame, yet still incredibly unsettling; think Larry Clark (Kids) or Todd Solondz (Storytelling) without any strong visual style.
Dear Pillow, written and directed by Bryan Poyser, is the story of Wes (Rusty Kelley, Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever), a 17-year-old living in an apartment in the Austin, Texas, suburbs with his frustrated and lonely single father. Wes is curious about sex, and his interest is especially peaked when he learns that a fellow resident of the apartment complex, the considerably older Dusty (Gary Chason, Brewster McCloud), writes for an adult magazine. Wes befriends the older man, and not only learns about the bird and bees in explicit detail, but also is encouraged to write some of his own X-rated material for possible publication.
Apparently, part of the impetus behind Dear Pillow was to examine the relationships between individuals and pornography without demonizing or sermonizing on the subject. That seems to be an interesting idea, and might be an admirable one, considering how much pornography is consumed in America compared with how rarely this consumption is addressed (in non-polemical form) in cinema. However, Dear Pillow lacks the depth to make any profound comments on its themes, and lacks a strong narrative to keep the audience otherwise engaged.
Despite refraining from any nudity or overly explicit visuals, the film still seems incredibly unseemly, which isn't bad in and of itself, but combined with a tedious plot, makes the viewer both bored and uncomfortable. There are several long scenes of Dusty and Wes getting drunk and talking about sex in graphic terms that might be initially provocative, but quickly leads nowhere. When Wes's father discovers this inappropriate relationship one expects there will be a reckoning, but instead Wes just shrugs off a warning and there are no repercussions. When an amorous landlady, Lorna (Viviane Vives), joins in Wes and Dusty's conventions, we again expect some sort of breakthrough in the plot, but instead the film limps to an unsatisfying conclusion.
That said, Dear Pillow is not a complete failure. Nearly all the actors deliver strong performances, all the more so since few of them have extensive acting experience. I often hear how difficult it is to act drunk, and with all the alcohol consumed by the characters, the actors are all the more impressive. Still, these characters don't have a strong narrative to engage -- or much of a narrative at all. So ultimately, all this aimless sex talk adds up to one of the most banal movies about sex I've ever seen.
Though I have strong reservations about the film itself, Heretic Films has done an incredible job with this DVD package. In fact, this is probably one of the best collection of extras I've ever seen for an independent film with such a small budget. There are two commentary tracks, with one featuring the filmmakers focusing on technicalities, and the other a bit more meandering discussion among the principal actors. There are also two short films by Poyser, "Pleasureland" and "Grammy's." The films both run nearly 20 minutes long, and both display a creativity and lecherousness that was evident, though distilled, in Dear Pillow.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Heretic Films
* 1.66:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Audition Tapes
* Two Theatrical Trailers
* Two Bonus Short Films Directed by Brian Poyser
* Filmmaker Commentary with Brian Poyser and Jacob Vaughn
* Actor Commentary with Rusty Kelley, Viviane Vives, and Gary Chason