MPI // 2008 // 70 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Daryl Loomis // April 1st, 2010
I was just looking at it!
Eleonore (co-writer Eléonore Hendricks, Bad Biology) wanders the streets of New York, looking out for someone who appears to have something interesting. Once she sees such a person, she finds a way to take that thing. Eleonore is a thief, but not one who steals for survival. She has a decent apartment and can clearly take care of herself; she simply steals out of curiosity. Her actions get her into surprisingly little trouble, and she happily walks through life grabbing whatever strikes her fancy. One day, she finds a car key and goes on a quest to find the car it belongs to, when Josh (writer/director Joshua Safdie, Yeast), a friend on a bike comes by. He's got a thing for her and, although she'd rather be left alone, he persuades her to let him help find the car, and they have a brief, boring little adventure together.
Although it isn't exactly correct to place The Pleasure of Being Robbed in the Mumblecore genre, it nonetheless irritates me in exactly the same way. A group of disaffected twenty-something urbanites engaging in endless banal conversation does not send my heart a-flutter. Nor does a kleptomaniacal lead character that doesn't seem to understand or care that she doesn't own the things she takes. If Eleonore's actions and attitude didn't make me sick, I'd have some serious questions about myself. It might be easier to take if there was more going on with her, but I know no more about Eleonore after the movie than I did before. One of her heists is a gift bag (it's apparently Christmastime) that contains a litter of kittens and a little doggie. They're awful cute, and Eleonore seems to really like playing around with them, which would be great if that scene had anything at all to do with the rest of the film. But, God forbid Safdie use a little storytelling, so at least we'd know if she fed the damn things.
The entrance of Josh doesn't help, as he's absolutely devoid of character or personality. His only purpose is to get Eleonore from one locale to another, and he barely accomplishes that. Maybe it's that the character is badly written or badly acted, but, either way, it's terrible. Safdie directs The Pleasure of Being Robbed in a very similar fashion to how he performs his role, with little skill. The film is cheap, improvised and, most importantly, completely boring. Safdie attempts a little surrealist humor with a guy in a polar bear suit, but of course there is no context for such imagery; I wonder about the point of the whole thing.
On disc, The Pleasure of Being Robbed performs about how one would expect for a film of this level. MPI, under the UFC Films label, has done an adequate job with the film, but there are plenty of technical limitations that the transfer has to account for. The Super-16 image is grainy and flat, so there's not a lot that can be done. The colors are accurate and there are no transfer errors, but it just looks cheap. The sound is no better, with a flat stereo mix that has clear dialog and minimal hiss. The menu screens are irritating; whoever designed them came up with the super clever idea to make a little comment about each option. For instance, the Setup option reads "Get it all straight first," and Special Features reads "More bang for your buck," but their attempts at irreverence fall completely flat. The extra five short films total about ten minutes; some are related to the feature and some are not, but they're just about as pointless as the main film. A fairly cool poster comes in the case, so at least there's something good about the package. The oddest feature is the commentary, which is an improvised musical accompaniment to the film. I kind of liked this; they are better at improvising music than improvising dialog, that's for sure. At the very least, it's different, if not particularly useful. Sort of like The Pleasure of Being Robbed, which is a poorly made, poorly acted, all-around disappointment.
As guilty as it is pointless.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 70 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Short Films