Ian (Adrian DiGiovanni) is a slob who hasn’t left his couch in ages. The only thing that spurs him to action is the sudden death of his ancient television set, which he named Kent. Without his best friend in the whole world, Ian begins talking first to us, then eventually, after a particularly traumatic event in the bathroom, to a large, sentient pile of mold, named The Mold (Jeffrey Combs).
Calling Ian “Jack,” The Mold attempts to help Ian navigate his post-Kent life, and the distractions that come along with it, such as the creepy TV repairman (Ken Brown), a violent landlord (Pete Giovagnoli), a mouthy delivery woman (Hannah Stevenson) and Leah (Danielle Doetsch), the neighbor that Ian obsesses over and door-stalks daily. Somehow, through scenes and events that would most likely be found in a germaphobe’s nightmare, Ian not only cleans up his act (and face), he cleans up the apartment.
Don Thacker’s Motivational Growth is a stylistically brilliant film, though filled with enough gross-out moments to make it a bad choice for dinnertime watching. Unless, that is, you enjoy your meals with pimple-popping, mold-ingesting, blood-splattering pukery.
I mean, so much of the film made me cringe away from the screen in the off chance some of the grime came through and got on me, so there’s this ever-present feeling of ick, but that doesn’t mean the film isn’t enjoyable. It’s just so odd, and original. What other film out there has a guy befriending and conversing with a mold puppet?
If it has a weak spot, it’s that it goes on a bit longer than it needs to. Once Ian starts cleaning up, I wanted the narrative to get to where it was going a little bit faster. I still enjoyed watching it, don’t get me wrong, but there is a momentum drop-off a little beyond the halfway point, roughly about the time when you stop just going for it and start trying to figure it out; because it means something, right? No? What?
In the end, Motivational Growth is what I imagine it would look like if the world turned around and helped old age kick Scott Pilgrim’s a*s. From the 8-bit animation to the video game score to the otherworldly feel and love for retro-technology, the film takes a stylistically pleasing approach to an otherwise disturbing story of a loser living in a filthy sty of a home. Unique across the board, this is the type of film that makes me happy I do this job.
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