Judge Christopher Kulik knows two or three things about low-budget indies.
Feel yourself disintegrate.
Roses are dead / Blue is through / White Powder is sweeter / Than what the green can do
It's been awhile since I've watched a film which was made by student graduates. And Two for Three, despite all its flaws, turned out to be a welcome relief from all the big-budget summer movies I've been watching (even though many have turned out great). At first, I thought writer/director Matt Nye's debut effort was going to be a semi-retread of countless other films about the simplistic relationships which form between three different people. And for the first 20 minutes I thought I'd been had; but, as it turns out, Nye had several clever tricks up his writer's sleeve…none of which I expected.
The story begins with a couple arriving at a restaurant. Katherine (Caitlin Kinsella) is a redhead who inadvertently puts a seductive spell on two male maitre d's: James (Matt Weston) and Hank (Andrew Kane). These guys decide to embarrass the boyfriend for being such a prick…and the maneuver actually puts a smile on Katherine's face. Moments later, the guys take her out to a club and get to know her better. Eventually this leads to a threesome, but in the morning Hank is a little upset with his buddy always hogging the conversation with Katherine. The two then make a deal: they will each share Katherine, having sex with her on different days. If you think that's outrageous, then prepare to be more surprised when Katherine actually goes along with the arrangement!
While the two are college chums, they both have radically different lifestyles. James is a laid-back coke dealer who is not willing to let Katherine sample his product because he cares about her emotionally. Hank is more of the rich, gentlemanly type, who gives her earrings and expensive dinners. Over time, Katherine begins to drift more and more away from James, primarily because Hank is a better lover. When Hank offers her some of James' coke, however, she sexually succumbs to him on a more regular basis. James begins to get more frustrated, considering the fact he has genuine feelings for her. Who will end up Katherine and how?
I thought I was had in the first 20 minutes because the opening exposition way too unrealistic. As the story went along, I got a bit more discouraged that Nye wasn't allowing me to get inside the character's heads. In addition, the sheer luridness of the situation was initially difficult to deal with; after all, the plot involves sex, drugs, weird behavior, and a generous amount of filthy language. The symbols/motifs (involving roses and mice) were also a bit too contrived for me to swallow. Indeed, I was convinced the film would end up being a tired affair which would morph into an age-old tug-of-war romance.
Strangely enough, Two for Three suddenly switched gears in the second act. The characters became more sympathetic, and the relationships a little more compelling. Amazingly, Nye's script went into some unusual and unpredictable directions, all the while teasing the viewer with the character's motives and the ramifications following their actions. The tone became darker and less comedic but, surprisingly, it never really got unpleasant. My sarcastic attitude in the beginning suddenly obliterated and I paid close attention to the very end. An out-of-nowhere, WTF-ending closed Two for Three, leaving me shaking my head in disbelief…yet, I was still impressed.
Utilizing a $500 budget, amateur actors working for nothing, and a confidence behind the camera, Nye has crafted something special. Sure, it may boast some lousy ADR, rather extreme close-ups, and few extras, yet Two for Three is still quite competent when it comes to the writing & directing. Nye avoids merely telling the story with words, but uses the visual medium to his advantage, with several excellent scene transitions. None of the dialogue is memorable or quotable; nevertheless, Nye has succeeded in making a movie with creativity and texture without the luxury of a million dollars at his disposable. The opening and closing sequences sandwiching the story may not work, leaving the viewer somewhat unsatisfied. Still, there's plenty of raw talent here to admire.
The acting is surprisingly good, too, considering the fact none of them have previous screen experience. Kane and Weston have an intriguing chemistry, and play off each other's quirks with supreme naturalness. And Kinsella is bewitching as this sexy, fiery woman who turns their lives upside down. Unfortunately, the supporting actors don't make much of an impression, but are palatable just the same.
Red Sauce Films gives Two for Three an adequate but undistinguished DVD treatment. The picture itself is clean and shows off its colors, with fuzziness apparent in several scenes. The audio track was a mystery, but I'm guessing its 2.0 Stereo. Despite the ADR hiccups I mentioned before, dialogue is distinguishable, although there are no optional subtitles. There is one extra and it's a good one: a commentary with Nye and one of the producers. It's a low-key affair—with more back-patting then I would have preferred—but both keep talking and provide some interesting background info. Nye admits his inspiration was the 1961 French film Jules and Jim, a tidbit I had already guessed early on.
In retrospect, Two for Three certainly doesn't have the class or sophistication of its source (or Andrew Fleming's superb 1994 film Threesome, for that matter). Regardless, the film manages to overcome its primitive roots, with persuasive performances and a story which goes on its own unforeseen path. Nye's aptitude is splendid, and the court looks forward to future projects from this freshman filmmaker.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Red Sauce Films
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