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By Alan Ng | January 13, 2020

As an overall film, Toxicity has its problems. When you step back, its story is pretty good. The problem is in its execution. First, its characters are flat and one-dimensional. There’s the worried mom, struggling son, stuck-up friends, intelligent investigator, drug users, and dealers. The roles are pretty standard, and we get minimal backstory or opportunities to connect with them on a personal level. Our connection comes only through sympathies we feel for them when bad things happen. I feel bad that members of Rose’s social circle mock her or that Desi is being framed for his wife’s death, but I don’t know much about Rose or Desi to care more deeply about their situations.

An example of this is the fact that Desi went to culinary school. This fact comes into play only to say that Desi is talented and has a promising career as a chef, if not for the drugs. But how does the fact that he’s a chef play into the way he talks, moves towards life goals, interacts with his mother in the kitchen, etc.? You could easily have said Desi wanted to be a firefighter or investment banker. It would not have changed the base character or motivations in any way. It’s this idea that give characters life and that they don’t exist only to serve the plot. These elements are simply not present here.

“…a good skeleton in a story and some exciting things to say about toxic relationships.”

The other problem is tonally the film lies flat. At the end of the film, you realize Toxicity is a crime-drama, but at the beginning, it feels like a family drama. From the start, I thought this was a story about a mother and son fighting the stigma of the son’s past. The film walks a slow pace, and the actors are low energy, like a soap opera. It feels like the actors are merely reciting lines on the script as opposed to integrating them into their characters (see previous note).

Toxicity has a good skeleton in a story and some exciting things to say about toxic relationships. It just falls short in the way its characters were created and developed through the writing process. It’s these details that the actors could have used to flesh out those characters in exciting ways.

Toxicity (2019)

Directed and Written: Andrew Ericksen

Starring: Aria Emory, Vicky Dawson, Theresa Byron, Kim McKissack, etc.

Movie score: 5/10

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"…he explores how the people we allow in our lives have such significant influence in it, whether healthy or, in this case, toxic."

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