Adriana (Nikki Estridge) is at the top of her game as a high-end prostitute. She lives well, and works with only the most connected, successful clients. Life is pretty much all fun and games, except for when one client’s wife (Monique Gaw) catches wind of her husband’s time with Adriana, and confronts Adriana about it, causing a bit of friction in an otherwise laid-back lifestyle.
Jason Baustin’s short film On Top takes a perspective on prostitution that is not altogether new to cinema, though his commitment to that perspective, from start to finish, is. Other films have looked upon prostitution as empowering to some degree or another, but they also eventually become cautionary tales and let the damaged realities of the lifestyle intrude. Not so in this film, which sticks with the empowering idea and posits that the right entrepreneurial personality, with the right clientele, can transcend the potential pitfalls.
Sure, Adriana doesn’t always come out on top, but her problems are short-lived and the film never becomes a horror show. Sure, maybe that’s in her future, but this film isn’t interested in the rise or fall, just what it’s like at the top. If you’re waiting for some gritty comeuppance or reality check, you’ll be waiting long after the film is over.
On Top has some gorgeous cinematography, the edit moves along nicely, with some fun montages, and the audio, mostly narration, is mixed well; overall it’s a solid short film experience.
I could’ve done without the repetitive shots of buildings that break up the edit, but I know why they’re there and I understand their function, so they don’t bother me too much. I also would’ve liked there to have been more of a character arc for the lead, or maybe a better conflict for the narrative, but the uniqueness of the perspective does carry the film through regardless. I just wonder if a stronger story, or even an extended one retaining this short, as it is, as the opening setup, would leave more of a lasting impression. I guess I’m just not so interested in life at the top as I am with either the climb or the fall.
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