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Case Number 20538: Small Claims Court

This Wretched Life

Escape Route Productions // 2010 // 98 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // January 20th, 2011

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All Rise...

Judge Brett Cullum believes everyone has their own monsters.

The Charge

"It will all fall into place. Some people have it much worse. It can only get better. It's never too late. This chocolate factory world is filled with all sorts of golden ticket dreams. In reality, there are some people in this world, that are and always will be, totally f**ked."—Chris

The Case

It's sometimes hard to fault a guy who spent nine years of his life making a film that probably cost nine dollars to make. Director and producer Frankie J. Mosca took nearly a decade to come up with This Wretched Life, a very personal film that he is promoting single-handedly without any major studio support. It is a dark comedy about a guy named Chris (newcomer Daniel Ball) who barely survives a near fatal overdose and embraces his second lease on life. He explores the monsters in us all thanks to a state-mandated 12 step program as well as intense therapy sessions. In the movie we see him move through his relationships with a group of slackers who are either working on their demons or letting them take over. Of particular significance is a girl called Ande (Ande Cira) who has a mentally challenged brother (Frankie J. Mosca appearing in his own flick). You know this pair is doomed from the start, but you certainly wonder where life is gonna take them. No fair guessing "straight through hell."

The movie is a lot of people screwing, taking drugs, and, oddly enough, using the bathroom on camera. There is the mentally challenged character, and the hero promises his sister he will drag the boy out of the trap they are in. You see This Wretched Life is all about escaping what you don't want out of the world, yet it never really shows what is across the abyss. Instead it is content to study the dark chasm, and offer a character who wants to find his way out in a rational manner. The only problem is that there are no rational people around him, so he has to navigate his way to relocating.

I asked the director personally what the film meant, and in an e-mail sent in early January of 2011 he stated this:

"This Wretched Life is a tough story, and the last reason that I decided to make the movie was to glorify sex, drugs, alcohol or living a hopeless and reckless life. I was also not aiming at poking fun at people who suffer from mental illness. There are very few movies out there that I have come across that truly present mental illness the way it actually is, and I wanted to expose it. A lot of people find the movie very bizarre, and they are right, but life is very bizarre for many people out there; it is their reality. In regards to the movie's dialogue, which can be harsh at times, that's how many people actually talk. It may be hard to swallow for some people out there, but again…it's reality. Unfortunately, it seems that the sort of dialogue and behavior this movie displays is becoming more and more common as time goes on. Hopefully the world can change this trend; the lead character Chris takes a shot at not only changing his life for the better, but also helping his friends escape the negativity."

Does he achieve any of this? In a way he does. This Wretched Life does indeed show a sly sense of humor and a sincere wish to find an answer to a troubling unanswerable question. It looks a bit cheap, because it was obviously made on the fly with nice video cameras. The actors are not all that experienced, though I have to give credit to lead actor Daniel Ball who handles the melodramatic moments with panache. It works most of the time, but there are bumps along the way.

The film does sometimes seem too concerned with style to a point where it distracts rather than helps. There is a major nod to Twin Peaks with the autistic brother who likes to dress up like an Indian and throw tantrums. It feels oh so familiar, and Lynch made it creepier and more authentic by keeping his character mysterious. In this film it's too much of the guy on display, and there could be less of those episodes. There are a ton of dialogue passages that try to ape Tarantino, and it comes off as potty mouth in a car run amok for the sake of shock. There's also a loopy sense of editing that recalls other more adept filmmakers, but here simply messes up the narrative when it needs to be clean. Sometimes Mosca bites off more than he can chew, and it comes off almost as parody. This is never intentional, but that makes it all the harder to ignore. There are moments when the film seems campy, but then again there are also real ones to balance it out.

The DVD seems to only be available online through the web site charmingly named "thiswretchedlife.com" (see accomplices for link) for just under twenty bucks via Paypal. There's not much to it. It contains the feature and a trailer. The film was done with video cameras, so it's not too much to look at. It is what it is, and at least it is out there on a disc finally.

This Wretched Life is the perfect movie for the economic recession. It's a film about how much people are stuck in their slacker ways, and how they just can't seem to fight it back no matter what. It also is severely low budget, and made with a handheld digital video camcorder and a Mac. There's something charming about a movie that someone was passionate enough to spend nine years making. It may descend into camp at times, but on the whole Mosca has much to be proud of. He made a film that works more often than not. Even big budget people wish for that. If you're a fan of true indie cinema then check it out despite any flaws. I feel better giving Mosca a twenty dollar bill than a big budget outfit any day.

The Verdict

Guilty of being a low budget, but not wretched, little movie.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 78

Perp Profile

Studio: Escape Route Productions
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Comedy
• Cult
• Drama
• Independent

Distinguishing Marks

• Trailer

Accomplices

• IMDb
• Official Site








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