Anyone who still doubts the potential of digital video to enhance the effectiveness of a dramatic film should take a look at "someBody." Henry Barrial's debut feature cannily exploits the cinema verite aspects of the technology as he follows one woman's crawl through the minefield of love. The result is a movie that is so dead-on in its evocation of the games people play that it's hard to tell where real life steps back and art steps in.
Some of that authenticity, admittedly, may have to do with the queasy enthusiasm with which the film's star and co-writer, Stephanie Bennett, has thrown her personal experience into the mix. It's one thing to draw upon one's past in the service of fiction, but how many of us would have the chutzpah to recruit our old flames to reenact our messed-up relationships? Even Woody Allen has a more self-protective sense of boundaries.
Bennett plays Samantha, a Los Angeles elementary schoolteacher who finds the taint of familiarity souring her feelings for her longtime boyfriend, Anthony (Jeramy Guillory). Eager to experience the thrill of other men before she reaches her 30s, she dumps Anthony and stumbles headlong into a series of misbegotten affairs. While the crestfallen Anthony is busy realigning himself with a new, more appreciative girlfriend (Laura Katz), Samantha jumps from one unsatisfactory one-night stand to another. Her neighbor Billy (Billy Ray Gallion) is frisky but noncommittal. A sleaze machine named Tony T (Tom Vitorino) steals her money while she's in the bathroom, then stalks her for weeks afterward. The only one who shows promise (Sean Michael Allen) ditches Samantha when she tries to get serious, as he already has a girlfriend.
Director and co-writer Barrial alternates scenes of Samantha's hapless dating career with talking-head interviews with her beaus (and a few other interested parties), revealing the two-way current of deceit and self-interest that makes dating such a treacherous business. Barrial and Bennett have honed some excruciatingly accurate dialogue from the roughshod process of improvisation, aided by the alert editing and athletic cinematography of Geoffrey Pepos.
The film slides briefly into flabby mockumentary only when Samantha visits her Texas family. Bennett volunteered her own relatives, and the contrast between these sincere nonprofessionals and the camera-friendly actors in the other scenes makes for a precipitous shift in tone. Otherwise, "someBody" reclaims well-trodden territory with an innovative hand that feels fresh as tomorrow.
Unrated. Times guidelines: inappropriate for all but the most mature teens.
Jan Stuart is a film critic for Newsday, a Tribune company.
Billy Ray Gallion...Billy
Tom Vitorino...Tony T
Next Wave Films presents a Rhythm Films and Cubano Films production, released by Lot 47 Films. Director Henry Barrial. Producers Stephanie Bennett, Henry Barrial, Geoffrey Pepos. Executive producer Peter Broderick. Screenplay Stephanie Bennett, Henry Barrial. Cinematographer Geoffrey Pepos. Editor Geoffrey Pepos. Music Geoffrey Pepos. Running time: 1 hour, 17 minutes.
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