Marla Singer. You remember her, that little scratch on the top of your mouth that would heal if only you could stop tonguing it. That big tourist who ruined your nightly catharsis at those support groups you used to frequent. Ever since she strolled into Testicular Cancer with those ubiquitous shades, dangling cancer stick, and black feather boa, and flatly queried, “This is cancer, right?” you knew she was trouble. But she was also the perfect match for that nihilistic rock god, anti-hero, embodiment of pure id, Tyler F’ing Durden, your less than respectable alter ego. Rock on with your bad self. Surely you remember Marla? She broke your (and our) heart then and now she’s come back for your balls in her very own short, aptly titled “Marla”. Though she may lack the appeal of the original Helena Bonham Carter incarnation, this Marla is still one sassy little alley cat. Oh yeah, and she’s now French! (This officially places her at number four on the French Girls I’d Most Like to Meet List, behind Audrey Tautou, that brunette from “The Dreamers”, and that blonde from “Swimming Pool”.)
Melanie Beisemans puffs, pops, and existentially sighs her way through “Marla” as the title nihilist. It’s a short with little narrative thrust, but maximum attitude and style. And Beisemans is definitely game. She’s got the look, the brass, and a hipness quotient that’s off the charts. When she looks up from behind those dark shades and chic hair style and calls herself a “social parasite” who’s “lost the instructions” and “doesn’t fit in”, we’re inspired to raise our freak flag high and shout, “Right on! I’m anti-establishment too!!” Come on, who wouldn’t follow Marla to the edge of oblivion, or at least New Jersey? Sure, she comes off like a punky brat who doesn’t give a damn about anything or anyone and is too cool for school. But when you peer behind that snotty veneer, you see she’s just a lonely little girl in need of some teddy bear lovin’.
So back to “Marla”, the film, you’re probably wondering what the hell it’s about already. Like I said before, it’s not really about anything so much as it’s purely an exercise in “Fight Club”-style aesthetics. But if you were to believe the rather spiffy-looking trailer preceding it, the film’s really about… oh you know, pretty much everything under the sun, including sex, war, religion, politics, yogurt, power, beer, men, women, cookies, ass, and support groups, among other things. And yes, the film purports to have interesting things to say on each of these topics, the most profound of which is that the world is actually ruled by women, who keep men in check with their mysterious ways. In other words, sex dominates the world. Yes, I know, shocking! The film even attempts to “prove” such revelations through a series of faux advertisements featuring a sexy blonde hawking beer, mineral water, and cars. When it aims for seriousness on such topics, the film skids, perhaps amusingly so, into the pretentious. Fortunately, the film spares precious few of its 14 minutes pretending to have a point and instead settles for simply kicking out the groovy jams (including Nat King Cole, Rosemary Clooney, Gob, etc) and worshipping the alluring Ms. Beisemans in all her devil-may-care splendor.
As a stylistic homage, “Marla” works exceedingly well. Creators Another State of Mind have perfectly captured the anarchic spirit of Fincher’s (and Palahniuk’s) seminal work, as well as that of the title character. With its deft use of slow-mo, slick camera work, and pop music, “Marla” has definitely got that certain je ne sais quoi. It’s truly an entertaining short, even if it doesn’t have very much to say.