Crisp Lips, written and directed by Madison Bounds, is a high-concept, well-produced, absurdist dark comedy about life in a couple of unpainted rooms that are meant to represent a restaurant.
Lucas (Parker Ridgley) and Valerie (Kristine Lyon) are the unnamed restaurant’s youthful employees. We know it’s a restaurant because they call it one, but in reality, it’s just a room with white walls. Apparently, Lucas and Valerie have been in the restaurant all their lives and sleep, bathe, and use the toilet in a small windowless back room that resembles a prison cell, lit with garish fluorescents. The two are deeply curious about the outside world and continuously fantasize about what it must be like. Lucas claims to have been outside at one point and even says he has seen a bear.
“…the drudgery of life goes on relentlessly, until one day an epidemic of cold sores throws the well-oiled dystopian system into complete chaos.”
They work for The Manager (Marla Kalin), serve The Party Member (John Dembiczak), and await the inspections by The Landlord (Alice Atwater). The cooks (Maggie Martin and Daustin Harvey) supply giant plates of a substance that looks like chow mein topped with nondescript brown goo. Drinks appear to be watered-down skim milk. A video monitor, directly on the table, provides dining entertainment for The Party Member.
Not much happens as they navigate daily life in black and white uniforms. They fear termination. They prepare for the visits of The Landlord. They muse about bears while the drudgery of life goes on relentlessly, until one day an epidemic of cold sores (hence the title) throws the well-oiled dystopian system into complete chaos.
Films are made for many reasons, for various audiences, and while Crisp Lips makes some wry points about the inanity of modern life in America, especially for people stuck doing menial work, it isn’t particularly entertaining. The one-note premise wears thin quickly. The idea would work better as a short film. On the other hand, it may simply need to find its audience. Perhaps it’s unfair to review this film with the same expectations as one would have of other mass-market movies, even indies. Crisp Lips is clearly meant as an experiment. Plus, it is fun trying to say the title ten times fast.
"…high-concept, well produced absurdist dark comedy about life in a couple of unpainted rooms..."