Sunday, May 11, 2014

"Faults": a dark comedy about a cult deprogrammer, and a client who turns the tables

Faults”, as the title of a new indie dark comedy at the Baltimore, Maryland film festival, is the name of a mind-control cult.  But the film is really all about a lot more than that.  It’s directed by Riley Stearns, and according to the QA, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who plays Claire, the cult “victim”, and who looks very athletic herself in person, is his wife.  So again we see some husband-wife filmmaking, and some people will say that’s good for marriage. 

As the film opens, author Ansel Roth (Leland Orser) is desperately trying to hang on to freebies he gets from hotels where he gets put up, apparently by publicity deals organized by the “author services” company that put out his second book on cults, something about getting side the mind of the possessed.  Roth has no money, and apparently has gambled his entire future on this book.  The script has a confrontation with his “publicist” where the publicist chides him for his second book, which nobody needs or wants, and threatens to send hit men after him if he doesn’t pay the debt.  Now, I self-publish, and use companies that do this, but I’ve never encountered the shady world of thugs in the process.  So as a plot device, that connection seems a bit of an artifice.

Roth does a book-signing party at the motel; it goes badly and there is an angry confrontation.  But as Roth’s life spirals down, he suddenly gets invited by a couple of desperate older parents to kidnap and deprogram their grown daughter from “Faults”.  Can Roth get away from the life of a writer and do the "practical work" for real people? Pretty soon Roth is negotiating with the thug world (at least as it is in Long Beach. CA) himself, and is camped out in a sleazy motel with the young woman and the parents.

The movie takes some twists, which have in part to do with the psychic powers the woman learned from the cult.  And then there is the whole possibility of sexual attraction, and seduction.

The style of the movie borders on neo-noir, although without the intensity from a David Lynch (there isn’t the brooding music of “Twin Peaks” here).  The script focuses on the little things in an ordinary environment (like a motel), just as Lynch does. This is easier with a story set in 1986, before cell phones and Internet, where a rabbit-ears TV going into snow is effective as a prop. 

And Claire very much comes across with the charisma of Brit Marling’s character in “Sound of My Voice” (April 28, 2012). 

The official site (Hanway and Snoot) is here. Curiously imdb didn't show the site. 

The film was screened in the MICA Gateway in Baltimore, a facility that looked like the RoundHouse in Silver Spring. 

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