By Merle Bertrand | January 17, 2002

“Design” is a film that might divide viewers into “loved it” or “hated it” camps, but for a rather esoteric reason. The skin will crawl on viewers who are staunch believers in free will. For hard-core adherents to the belief that everything in life is pre-determined however, writer/director/star Davidson Cole’s audacious bleak comedy will be seen as a ringing affirmation of their thoroughly depressing belief system.
“Design” blends and overlaps three stories with seamless precision. Nicholas, a voyeuristic photographer who seemingly relates to women only through his camera lens, is as close to an anchoring character as the film gets. Sonya, a beautiful eighteen year old who’s trying valiantly to bring her alcoholic father back to life following his painful seperation, appears briefly in Nicholas’ viewfinder. So, too, does Kate, a beautiful and kinky young bride-to-be who completely outclasses her fiancé Seamus. While Nicholas deals only tangentially with the women, he becomes deeply intertwined with the men in their lives. It’s this involvement that eventually draws the three storylines together; a series of fateful encounters that threatens to destroy the guys while leaving the women to survive.
“Design” is a weirdly compelling film. Its funky vibe pulls the audience through the assorted slow spots scattered about and keeps them watching until the next darkly comic disaster occurs. When you consider that the film’s one true beacon of goodness and light is a cocktail waitress at a strip joint…well, you get the idea. Flash frames, night-vision, love, lust, revenge and brutality all conspire to hoist the seemingly unavoidable fates upon these doomed complex characters.
Daniel J. Travante is well cast as Sonya’s father, but Cole clearly steals the show. When things go bad for him, they go BAD. Completely and in rapid succession no matter what he does; an “I shouldn’t be laughing at this” free-fall that leaves the poor chump a babbling idiot.
I heartily recommend “Design,” but whether you’ll like this nasty black comedy is totally up to you…or is it?

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