It’s mostly through Rosa’s sunglasses that we observe this particular story unfold, which is f**king painful. Tape is not aesthetically pleasing in any shape or form (nor was it probably meant to be, but is that an excuse?). The film justifies Rosa’s intrusion into Pearl’s life, for one – an oppressive technique that leaves a bitter taste in your mouth, making you a complacent Peeping Tom. The camerawork is headache-inducing. Images blur in and out of focus. Jarring edits and pixelated ugliness abound. The fact that every moment is coated with a thick smear of pretentiousness – from the tacky, 1990’s trip-hop soundtrack to the permeating, suffocating sermonizing / finger-wagging – is perhaps most insufferable.
Another issue is the lack of a strong narrative voice – which may be okay if you’re Linklater. Kampmeier is not: half of the time, we’re seeing (or rather, trying to see) the plot unfold through Rosa’s eyes, and the other half is told in a pretty much straightforward manner, which leads to a discombobulated/confused – not to mention repetitive – whole. A stronger grasp of momentum, structure, characterization would’ve certainly helped.
“…some scenes are almost laughable, if the subject matter weren’t so real and painful…”
Speaking of, the characters all serve a specific function: Fuhrman is the naïve actress, Bishara, the despicable/charming (though really, not that charming) sexual predator, Rosa, the toxic masculinity avenger. They do their best to elevate/anchor sequences, such as the one where Pearl thanks the Academy before knowingly walking into the maw of a predator. Some scenes are almost laughable if the subject matter weren’t so real and painful. Lux shows Pearl the sex scene in Monster’s Ball to further lure her into his trap. “Look at her,” he comments, referring to Halle Berry’s character, “there’s no way that’s not real.”
Yes, the entertainment industry is a swamp, a cesspool if you will, of atrocities performed by men behind the scenes that need to be divulged, as witnessed by the Weinstein scandal (among many, many others). If you’re looking for a worthy treatise on sexual predators, Kitty Green’s The Assistant deals with a similar subject in a minimalist, artful, tasteful, suggestive, highly effective manner. Like Pearl, Green’s protagonist goes into the cesspool unarmed, but her journey is infinitely more believable and compelling, open to many interpretations. “If I was f**ked up and perverted, I’d be sweaty right now,” Lux comments hysterically at one point. Tape sure works up a sweat, and it’s pretty damn perverted.
"…inherently misguided, a queasily voyeuristic project..."