Exhibit A is a kind of found footage reverse Misery, where we spend most of our time getting to know Kathy Bates. Two teens amuse themselves with their new video camera, bugging strangers with silly questions or doing jackass-ish stunts, until they meet a lonely housewife who enjoys their company perhaps a bit too much.
Colin Bannon’s skill in editing is in evidence here. Some scenes last barely more than a second. You only have time to figure out what’s going on before they move onto the next. This is quite excellent really. I also like the overall length of the short which, at under twenty minutes, neither drags nor speeds through its material. It’s just about perfect, or as close to it as makes no difference.
There’s also a really great bit of acting in this short. It comes when a character is doing a rather terrible interpretation of a scene from a soap opera she likes for someone filming her with a video camera.
It sounds weird, but actors – even the bad ones – have a real hard time doing a crappy acting job on purpose. They’ve trained themselves so obsessively for years to perform to the best of their abilities no matter how they feel or what’s going on around them, that asking them to do a terrible job would be like asking someone to wet their pants in front of a crowd. They just can’t do it. Every natural instinct they have rebels against the idea. So they have to pretend to act badly, and more often than not they pile on the ham to such an extent that it looks fake as hell. NOBODY is that awful, and it snaps you out of the film. The actress in Exhibit A does a really good job of acting badly for that scene. So much so that I watched it again, just because it’s so rare to see it done so well.
If there’s one negative thing to note, it’s that the sound quality sucks. More than once, I couldn’t understand what the person was saying until I rewound and listened to the scene again, and a few times I couldn’t understand what the person was saying at all. Also, there’s an omnipresent hiss throughout the short. It’s not obnoxious or anything, but it’s always there. I don’t know if Bannon put it there for atmosphere or what, but if he did it doesn’t work. It’s just distracting.
Other than the nitpicking about the sound, there’s nothing very negative to mention except that Bannon tries something weird and artsy for the end credits that must have seemed like a good idea on paper but doesn’t quite play out that way on film. At the same time I have to applaud his balls for trying it.
On the plus side are the solid performances by the whole cast and the writing. I also liked the soap opera analogies sprinkled throughout the dialogue. It does a hell of a good job to show you what kind of craziness is going on in this woman’s head. In fact, I’d hazard to say that there’s a seed of a really good full length movie lurking in here.
Of particular note is Jennifer Roe, who plays the housewife Kathy. Her performance walks a tightrope, where she never makes you like her character while at the same time never making the woman seem like a monster. I liked that sort of nuance.
Look, this is an uber low budget film, which means I likely paid more for the laptop that I’m writing this review on than Bannon paid for the whole production, but if you want to be a true film buff then this is the sort of thing you need to watch every now and then. Not because it’s flawless or mind-blowingly original, but because this is what a movie looks like when it has no budget and has to sink or swim by the imagination and enthusiasm of the director and cast. In many cases, the film completely falls apart and becomes a curio for the people who made it to show their friends when they get drunk on Friday night, but once in a rare while something very decent is created. I’m glad to say that Exhibit A fits neatly into the latter category.
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