Since this is a musical, it’s probably important to get a gauge of where I fall when it comes to appreciation of musicals. My tastes are firmly in the corner of something like Cannibal: The Musical! and not Wicked. Which is to say, I like to laugh above and beyond all else, and musicals that make me giggle tend to win out over something that is extremely well-made and loved by pretty much everyone else. Having said that, I enjoyed It Is What It Is, and think that it might be one of those spots in Mark Bell’s Musical Appreciation Venn Diagram where the circles overlap.
VP Boyle’s musical short film is an ensemble piece set in New York City. Faith (Kaitlan Emery), the dogwalker, is the one touchstone that drifts in and out of each person’s storyline, connecting them all with her observations or presence. Arron (Jaspal Binning) and Liza (Abi Robinson) are a couple who begin to argue when a chance meeting with fashion model Kevin (Eden Classens) and fashion photographer Freya (Linnea Larsdotter) brings up a secret from Arron’s past. The aforementioned fashion duo are working on a shoot, but Kevin is more interested in his cocaine habit than his professionalism. Meanwhile, Georgia (Arial Virginia Stafford), from Georgia, is a dancer trying to find a her way beyond the audition process and Sharon (Brittani Janish) is a single mother trying to find work so she can provide for her daughter without relying so much on the kindness, or pity, of others.
Overall, the film is extremely well-made. The acting is spot-on (not too over-the-top, considering it could easily go that way being a musical) and the film mixes in more than a few moments of real, gritty drama. The musical moments come in at appropriate times (to my taste, at least) and the music itself, composed and written by Andrew Gerle, manages to stay fun without getting annoying and on-point without getting too on-the-nose.
The main criticism I have of the film is its duration. At 40 minutes, it lives in that cinematic realm known as Short Film No Man’s Land. It’s too long to find itself programmed at too many film festivals (hard to fit into a program), but if it went any longer I feel that what it achieves would be diminished. At the same time, could this really be cut down? Whose storyline, or song, would have to suffer?
So that’s the grain of salt with which to take the above criticism: a film should be the perfect length to tell its story in the best way possible. If 40 minutes is what this film needs, than I’m sure it’ll find its way. Experience has taught me that such a scenario is rare, but do something long enough and you see the exception to almost every rule sooner or later.
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