An old argument against film critics is the notion they sit on the sidelines with their acidic commentary because they are unable to create motion pictures. In some ways this is untrue (Francois Truffaut comes to mind as a critic-turned-auteur) and in some ways it is too true (anyone care to sit through a Rod Lurie movie?).
Rachel Gordon, the witty and insightful reviewer for the online magazines FilmCritic.com and Culture Dose, has attempted to make the leap from critic to creator with the short film “Room Tone.” Actually, that is not a proper observation–not only did she attempt the leap, but she made it with flying colors.
“Room Tone” is a sly, somewhat rueful story of two former lovers reunited by work. Kaylie (Eris Migliorini) is a producer who winds up casting her unfaithful ex-lover Stewart (Alex Blaise) in the leading role of a film she is creating. Stewart tries repeatedly, albeit with more playfulness than soul, to bridge the gap that time and his bad behavior created. Kaylie, however, views his attempts at reconciliation with a mix of good humor and a touch of mild irritation. Despite the enthusiasm by Kaylie’s assistant director Jenny (Susie Ferber) to see new sparks from a dormant flame, Kaylie enjoys her independence from Stewart and is in no great rush to return to territory she has long since left.
The joy in “Room Tone” comes in its subtle dismantling of movie cliches. There are no big dramatic scenes between Kaylie and Stewart, no phony nostalgia, and no false emotions. Indeed, “Room Tone” is a mature study of how some people are able to heal from past wounds and move on with their lives while others try to rectify situations which have long since been buried by the rest of the world.
As a director, Gordon has guided fine performances from her cast. Migliorini is so wonderfully focused and self-assured that it is refreshing to see a woman’s character on-screen who is comfortable with her own identity and does not need to be, while Blaise gives full dimension to his role as the one-time cad who may or may not be sincere about starting over. Their chemistry is so genuine that it is easy to forget they are just acting, and it is easy to emphasize with Ferber’s highly amusing sidekick role as she wonders aloud whether the old relationship can see a resurrection. Gordon herself turns up briefly and charmingly as an autograph seeker who flatters Blaise in a crowded bar, delaying him while she extracts and unfolds a paper for him to sign.
“Room Tone” may give pause to fans of Rachel Gordon’s film reviewing, as her success behind the camera might someday give way to her leaving the world of criticism to focus exclusively on filmmaking. If this is the case, film criticism’s loss will be filmmaking’s treasured gain. Until that day should come, Gordon can provide connoisseurs of great writing and great films with the best of both worlds.