Depressing Prospects // 2006 // 120 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Christopher Kulik (Retired) // October 31st, 2008
It's a smoldering symphony of mobocity!
With independent filmmakers, you never know what you're going to get, and that's part of the fun of watching and critiquing them. However, something within my psyche wasn't prepared for the work of Brian Labrecque, who founded his own little company, Depressing Prospects in Seattle. His debut film, Far Too Gone was an outrageous comedy about a guy who thinks he's singer Tori Amos. While I haven't had the pleasure of watching it yet, I got an idea of Labrecque's sense of humor after watching Fear of Lemonade and Other Brutalities which is, essentially, three short films along with some bonus material.
While it's difficult to comprehend -- even after multiple viewings -- Fear of Lemonade (20 minutes) is some kind of drug-fueled nightmare. Bryce Gregson is a bum who lives in a dumpster and is constantly strung out on hashish; his inability to "motivate" passers-by forces him to partake in some stronger stuff, which his dealer refers to as "death with hot sauce." As his mind is being burned, he comes into contact with two tweens (defined by an onscreen doctor) as well as a girl scout with bionic capabilities. Whether he is dying or just losing his mind is unclear, but he's not getting any help, that's for sure.
There's no denying that Labreque has a unique vision, and Lemonade is punctuated by some mind-blowing visuals despite the miniscule budget. It certainly kept my attention, but the heavy metal soundtrack and intentionally-slow voice-overs were overbearing to the point of mental exhaustion. Beyond that, however, it doesn't really have much of a point, although a final message in the credits seems to indicate otherwise. Regardless, I much preferred the "other brutalities," which are entitled Fist Full Of Pizza and Meeting Hillary.
Told entirely by a series of basic drawings, Pizza (18 minutes) is a profane, harshly funny story of a punk who wants to get his GED real bad. When Dell snatches his computer due to non-payment, however, he goes on a rampage which leads to him being covered in human feces, holding a pizza in one hand, a revolver in the other and having a guy in the trunk of his car. Clever short film has lots of laughs, even if it occasionally leans toward South Park-like crudeness and its ending is positively silly.
Of all the shorts, Hillary (10 minutes) is the most straightforward and conventional, in terms of storytelling. The title character is a young girl who meets another girl online named Christine who claims to be a witch. They meet in a park, take a walk into the woods, but soon Christine finds out she's been set up and targeted for destruction. Both actresses give cool performances, and the story -- as uncomplicated as it is -- is fun to watch.
Complimenting the short films is a series of radio interviews with the writer-director. Greg Ross, of Go-Kart Records, has a radio show called Radio Free Greg, and his first conversation with Labreque consists of the weirdness exhibited by Far Too Gone and its influences. Trouble is, Labreque has a defensive attitude and I would guess the interviews were scripted ahead of time and meant as a joke, but I couldn't tell. Either way, it's hilarious stuff, particularly when Lebreque pisses on Britney Spears and defends his affection for Ed Wood and John Waters. The second and third interviews cover favorite gifts, more of the transvestite aspects of Labreque's debut film, and the filmmaker wishing the DJ a happy birthday. Ross continues to crack on Labreque's Ed Wood-approach to filmmaking and by this time it gets rather tedious, but there are still laughs along the way. All three interviews add up to about 40 minutes.
Other Radio Free Greg goodies include a radio review by Lebreque of a film called "Schooled" by writer-director Brooke Elms (who's present with them) and dramatic "excerpts" by Labreque of O.J. Simpson's book "If I Did It," which are both, again, filled with heavy sarcasm and bad jokes. These are followed by four mini-episodes of Lebreque's own radio show called "What Not To Watch," which I found much more engaging. The idea is that Brian "reviews" these films without even watching them and then provides a banquet of bullshit; his candidates include Volver and two Harry Potter films. All of them are short and sweet. As if all that weren't enough, Depressing Prospects has given us some "creature features" (extras) to lap up as well; included are four trailers, a music video, and two slideshows.
Fear of Lemonade and other Brutalities is an extremely mixed bag, and its avant-garde aspects will not appeal to everyone. As for filmmaker Brian Labreque, the dude is whacked...and I mean that as a compliment. Whether you dig his films or not, he has a lot of creativity and much of his humor is inspired. Verdict: not guilty!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Depressing Prospects
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "Radio Free Greg"
* Music Video
* IMDb: Fear of Lemonade
* IMDb: Meeting Hillary