Director and co-writer Tony Wise makes one fatal error in his dramatic short, “Bottled Up”: He pits extreme dirtbags versus extreme yuppies. And though it may seem obvious whom you should root for, really you wouldn’t mind if all of them went down.
The irritation starts early. In the 19-minute film’s opening scene, WASPy Charles (Jasper Wood) and Myra (Megan Molloy) are pristinely coiffed and clothed and shopping at a desert liquor store, continually calling each other “babe.” When Myra catches her babe washing down some painkillers with vodka, she half-jokingly calls him a “lush.” His brusque, no-script-doctor-here response: “Babe, c’mon. Just let me get about my grocery duties in peace!”
One more snap after Myra complains that he forgot to pick up marshmallows, and the film jumps back to the day before. The pair are just arriving in the area for a vacation, and their BMW is sorta-blocked from making a turn by a stalled pickup driven by “hillbilly” Max (Warren Ostergard). Max’s girlfriend, Peach (Tonya Cornelisse), is angry, twangy, and h***y, weirdly hissing “That’s my baby” when he gets the truck started as if she were the one he managed to turn on.
Once Charles and Myra get to their cabin, he offers to go back out to buy some food. On the way to the store, though, he’s tempted by an ice-cream shop, and – what are the odds? – seems that Max has a sweet tooth, too. (“You and your f*****g ice cream!” Peach yells, to which Max hilariously replies, “Hey, this is the one thing I ask for!”) Max’s pickup has stalled again; Peach begs Charles to give them a ride to the auto parts store. And then…bad things happen.
There’s really no other way to discuss the gist of “Bottled Up” without spoiling it – let’s just say the title is pretty clever. Wise gets credit for making the crime that’s committed as well as its squirm-inducing and tense aftermath, and the film moves along at a brisk pace.
The only spoiler here is the acting: As weird as her character is, Cornelisse comes off as the most accomplished of the three main characters, whereas Wood and Ostergard are cartoonish and annoying. And it’s hard to demonize one character and pity another – and therefore fully get into the story – when both are tools.