In the battle between two films made by different freshman feature directors from the same original screenplay—as dramatically bared on the Starz network’s reality series “The Chair”—there’s Anne Martemucci’s sedate, passable more rom-less com “Hollidaysburg,” and there’s Shane Dawson’s loud and bawdy “Not Cool.” It’s a horse of quite a different (and flashy) color. He directs with a strong, wink-wink approach, and I suspect he made his director of photography Frank Paladino work overtime to get the bright, pulsating look that saturates the film. The hand-held cameras are better placed and work terrific, and, when combined with good blocking, help the film’s flow blossom. It’s also better written and edited (Shane did that too!) than its competitor. The cast is more at ease with the many raunchy situations that abound.
Having watched half of the 10 episodes of “The Chair,” it’s obvious that the extra camera team documenting Shane didn’t phase him. “I document my entire life and put it on YouTube so if I was making the movie by myself I would have had to document it and edit it all myself! This way was much easier.”
Shane certainly catches the tempo of his generation, and he does a yeoman’s job of directing, starring, and handling two other female roles, including a blonde-wigged, promiscuous valley girl creature. His acting leans more toward mugging and hugging, but he definitely knows how to select and manage his cast, who gleefully embellish their numerous offbeat characters. Not that I’m a follower, yet (his edgy YouTube video channel has over 10 million subscribers), but Shane does move his small screen antics to the big screen (and VOD window) in outrageous and occasionally heartfelt fashion.
The opening party sequence sets the stage. While various tweets carom around the frame, the supporting characters let you know that not everything you read on the internet should be taken at face value. The web can also be a vast playground for comic-tinged abuse. For the stunning Tori Gillaspie (a very refreshing Cherami Leigh), whose pimply high school years sucked (nickname: Tori the Horie), she’s returned home from Northwestern for Thanksgiving, to a family of ditsy weirdos. Scott, a strangely coiffed (in a Beatles way) collegian, returns home to a full crazed assault by his shrill, coarse-as-sandpaper, robustly-featured girlfriend, Heather (Jorie Kosel). Make that ex-g.f. Following one of the film’s many randy moments in a men’s rest room, she dumps him.
Meanwhile, the long-haired, sorta-looks-gay, over-sexed, and clumsy Joel (online comedian Drew Monson) returns to town from Cornell (Go Big Red!) to stalk out high schooler Janie (Michelle Veintimilla), Scott’s sister. Their relationship is slow to develop, as Joel doesn’t want to appear too eager to jump her bones. And Scott has a run in (awkwardly) with Tori. Sex ensues. Romance follows. A nice, relaxed relationship develops.
Pot and potty jokes are plentiful, bare buttocks (and other sex parts) make brief appearances, and there’s trash talk galore. This definitely would be an R-rated item if it had been submitted to the MPAA Ratings Board. Chris Moore, executive producer on both films and the TV show, was a producer on “American Pie,” and “Not Cool” shares that film’s vibrant enthusiasm. There are glimpses of other teen comedies (“Mean Girls,” “Superbad“) as inspiration as well.
I suspect Shane won the competition. Even if he came in second, he’s got a winner of a film. And he sold a half-hour sitcom to NBC.
Brazen, shameless, romantic, and broadly funny. With good music. “Not Cool” is way cool.