It'll be a long time before Judge Katie Herrell books an extended hotel stay.
When your darkest moment comes to light.
Here is a movie I actually want to watch again. Not because it was drop-over fabulous, but because I perilously doubted my understanding of it. Pretty fabulous, in a disturbing way.
Facts of the Case
In Gorman Bechard's You Are Alone, Daphne (Jessica Bohl), is your typical suburban teen. Brainy (accepted at Yale), beautiful (very shapely, uh, calves), and bored. She takes an alias, "Britney," a gimmick, "Catholic school girl," and an Internet escort service, and becomes every man's purported fantasy. But her creepy neighbor, the ironically-named Buddy (Richard Brundage), catches her in the act and unrolls a sort of blackmail scheme destined to ease his ceaseless depression caused by the departure of his wife. Or at least I think that's what the film is about.
Daphne/Britney could easily have a million vices—subtract sex, add heroin; subtract heroin, add shoplifting. She's a long-limbed, dark-haired beauty whose heavy-lidded eyes speak of unremitting, if not self-imposed, hardship. In a word, the character is believable, if not implausible.
Bohl, basically a young model/actress with no major credits to her name, is a bit benign at times, engaging in seemingly meaningless banter with Buddy, and seeming to realize the dialogue is meaningless (despite claiming credit as a writer on the film for "additional dialogue"). But it is a role perfect for a young ingenue. She exposes flesh, innocence, grit, and depth all in 84 minutes and without the support of a flashy location, set, or co-stars. The character reminded me a bit of Katie Holmes' starring, and excellent, role in Pieces of April—a role I doubt the cushy Mrs. Cruise could credibly pull off today.
Buddy is admirably creepy and tortured. He's disgusted with himself and you're disgusted with him. Following his wife's abandonment, he quits his job and lives in depressed solitude. His entire being appears grey. His hair and clothing are indefinite shades of colors; his physique bears the beginning of a gut; and an overall slackness defines his carriage.
The majority of the movie takes place in a cheap, tan-toned hotel room, that is realistically a pay-by-the-hour sort of place, except the room is rather spacious. Here Buddy and Britney hash out the reasons for Daphne's extracurricular activities. She tells him of her clients and their needs, never expressing guilt or doubt over her role as an extramarital play thing for many of her clients. The only clients she judges are the high-rollers who view her as a nameless conquest; she's also not really into S&M. Good girl.
Meanwhile, Buddy is relatively free from interrogation about why he's wallowing in despair over his former wife, despite the years that have passed. He's a bit exasperated that Daphne could jeopardize her life for thrills, but Daphne brushes off his concerns in an oh-so-18-year-old way. He seems uninterested in ravaging his teenager neighbor, despite the briefcase of cash lying on the dresser to pay for such a pleasure. He comes across as a bit of a weenie for wanting to psychoanalyze the body he himself has hired.
If the movie never traveled from this hotel den of transgressions, it would be but a blip on the cinematic landscape. But interspersed throughout the tales of teenage heartbreak and fetish-friendly clients are the interactions that result in the hotel rendezvous. The sequence of events is fuzzy and the dialogue is sparse. Here's Buddy with a gun; there he is burying his dead dog. There's Britney/Daphne coiled up into herself naked and sobbing on the bathroom floor; there she is blindfolded and strapped to a bed. We never know what the cause and effect is between scenes…but it's obvious the outcome won't be good. You're so busy trying to figure out what the real timeline is that you don't mind the aimless banter in the bedroom or the fact that you never actually get the sex scenes the movie seems to promise.
Without the constant flashbacks or flash-forwards—I'm still not sure which they were—this movie would be perfect for the stage. The tension builds throughout, and the ending is wonderful fodder for post-theatre dinner conversation. The music is appropriately, yet heart-wrenchingly, desperate and its strains set the tone for the entire film. The low lighting contributed to the desperate atmosphere, and the camera is never intrusive, making the viewer feel like a realistic voyeur.
The deleted scenes in the special features section were wisely deleted, including every shot involving Daphne's parents. The pert couple, primarily the mother, overplayed their roles. Instead of serving as a relatable or realistic cause for Daphne's angst, they appear as caricatures of every naive, over-bearing and over-proud parent.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
At first I was a little worried the camera wasn't intrusive enough. It seemed like the cameraman rolled the dolly in from the hall, hoping he'd capture the action. And at times, in the blah hotel room, I drifted off, wondering why on earth Daphne spent half her time there, just chatting in her undergarments. Buddy didn't request it, and it seemed an amateur (or common?) ploy by the filmmakers to keep the more wandering viewer focused on the movie. Of course, the frumpy Buddy got to keep all his clothes on.
If Memento stands as the pinnacle of "The Ending is Really the Beginning" genre of filmmaking, You Are Alone took copious cues from the leader on high. Memento fueled endless discussions about the actual sequence of the film, and if this movie ever found such a mainstream audience, I think it would fuel the same interesting discussion.
So Guilty. She did it. He did it. Society made them do it.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Vivendi Visual Entertainment
• Director Commentary
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