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By Clint Fleener | April 25, 2006

Brian Bedard’s film is a grueling look into the last hour of Harry’s life. He has just turned 19 and his mother and step father are leaving town. As is his civic obligation, his best friend Johnny is coming over to celebrate. Johnny’s invited his drug dealer, an affable fellow named Tits. Harry’s girlfriend shows up with one of her friends and voila, we have a ‘teenagers at a party’ movie. But Façade is the teen sex comedy that Todd Solondz or John Cassavetes might have made. The conflict starts right away as people seem to be competing for Harry’s attention. His stepfather presents him with tickets to Europe, his best friend brings the drugs and his girlfriend’s gift is more carnal in nature. Harry is torn between his friends and the pressures around him, he’s isn’t dealing well with this and intermittently he retires to his room to write a letter to his absent father and hit himself in the face.

As Harry’s veneer thing façade begins to erode we see the same thing in his two best friends. It’s not really a surprise to anyone to learn that Harry’s domineering girlfriend Shannon might be hiding something or that Johnnie’s charismatic quips mask his own cruel nature. Facade doesn’t deal in surprises or twists, instead it mines human relationships and revels in the moribund state of it’s characters. We are not so much surprised by the façade these characters put up, but by the cruelty and despair of the persons behind the mask. Evoking that feeling of pathos is finally what the film is best at. The genuine and affectionate relationship between Tits and Shannon’s friend Kathy keeps the film from become too obsessed with human pain, but as the tag line says, this is the last 89 minutes of Harry’s life. Because the film ends with Harry’s suicide the very framework suggests that the movie is meant to explain Harry’s suicide, instead it provides a context in which suicide becomes one of several options these characters have for dealing with a hard world.

Bedard takes his time to establish the world, the film is shot in one location and contains only the seven actors. Shot on Super 16 it’s a great looking film and it reflects Bedard’s film school pedigree. He captures the tumultuous feelings of both youthful invulnerability and underlying dread, unfortunately the dread wins out. I found myself remembering countless, okay a couple, similar gatherings infused with hormones, drugs and lacking a brain north of my waist to put it all in perspective, the end result always seemed to illustrate mankind’s baser nature. Bedard does a little of everything, producing directing, editing, writing and playing the part of Johnny. The cast includes Patrick J. Adams as Harry and Shannon Coltrane as Shannon, all are excellent, most of the cast is taken from USC where Bedard graduated. Façade lacks subtly and feels overwrought at times but you can’t deny that it’s a well done, powerful film.

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