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By Mark Bell | December 23, 2013

Paul (Jeremy Ryan) is bringing his new girlfriend Misty (Tatiana Dadovich) home to meet the family, and the scene is set for Mark Stearns’ 16mm short film, Get With The Program, as it gives us a glimpse at the resulting dysfunctional family get together. Mom (Lisa Lounsbury) and Dad (Joe Brabeck) are mostly agreeable, Josh (Derek Dirlam) is the slacker who waxes philosophical with the beer bottle to his lips, Gabe (Jack C. Kloppenborg) is the supposedly enlightened one who can’t help but be an a*****e and Pete (Ken Favell) is the even bigger a*****e, a weight lifting chauvinist who hides out in his room when he’s not being a royal dick to whoever is around.

An uncomfortable experience for all involved, including the audience, the film never really finds that moment that makes it entertaining. Instead, for every joke that falls flat or every moment that seems unnecessarily aggressive, you just want to leave the experience as quickly as possible. Which is another way of saying, this film can evoke some strong emotions. Despite the fact that we’ve seen these family trainwreck cinematic ideas before, I don’t know that I’ve seen very many so aggressively unlikeable. I mean, I hated The Family Stone, but that film is bunnies and hugs compared to the personalities on display in this one.

But that’s the subjective nature of film reviewing, right? Someone else might see this, draw parallels to their own family experience (or be thrilled that there’s a lack of parallels), and find it brilliant in its unflinching rawness. I could see someone thinking that, but I didn’t. I just really didn’t enjoy my time with this group of characters. I even had trouble sympathizing with Misty, because even as she seems to be the latest victim to this family’s idiosyncratic lack of appeal, she also indulges in it. Let’s just say, if someone treated me the way Paul’s brother Pete treats Misty, I probably wouldn’t have been so intrigued as to try and connect with the guy.

On the technical side of things, it is refreshing to see a short film shot on actual film, and the few issues as far as audio or image exposure is concerned can be directly attributed to the difficulty of the medium. Likewise, while the edit early on is a bit frantic and confusing, that could also stem from the fact that, if the film was also cut as film (not transferred into a NLE program), then cuts can be somewhat abrupt, especially if the option to smooth out transitions, or even make more sense with establishing coverage shots, is non-existent (the film does employ a freeze-frame entrance to a few scenes). So, tech-wise, competent in the face of a far more challenging situation than shooting with a Canon and editing on Final Cut Pro. I respect that very much.

I also enjoyed the use of the camera as the POV of Misty in some instances, which may seem contradictory in the sense that it heightens the discomfort of the experience. Still, I appreciated the attempt to put us in Misty’s shoes, even though I never quite got why those shoes didn’t run out of the house almost immediately.

But I still didn’t like Get With The Program. I just couldn’t get beyond how uncomfortable the entire experience was, and how little I liked any of the characters. When coupled with the film’s twenty minute running time, it was almost too much to bear. Still, points are to be given for delivering something so viscerally unappealing to me, because that doesn’t happen very often.

This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.

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