"It’s cheap and sloppy. Believe it or not, those are virtues."
“Baghead” is small quirky little film that borders on amateurish. After a few minutes of jerky “Blair Witch” photography, it’s easy to wonder if there is a point. Fortunately, sibling writer-directors Jay and Mark Duplass have figured out how to use their meager resources to intriguing effect. After watching “Baghead,” I’m not sure if I’ve seen a horror film or a comedy, and I’m sure that’s what the Duplass brothers intended.If you can get through the camerawork, the film opens with an amusingly accurate depiction of filmmakers on the fringe. A quartet of struggling thespians named Matt (Ross Partridge), Chad (Steve Zissis), Michelle (Greta Gerwig) and Catherine (Elise Muller) attend a screening of a pretentious art film titled “Let’s Get Naked,” by smug director named Jett Garner (played by a fellow of the same name).
The Duplasses won me over quickly during this opening segment. As Garner answers audience queries, all of the questions I’ve heard at independent screenings in my native Midwest are repeated with amusingly frightening accuracy. Regardless of whether the film was watchable or lousy, I’d hear the same questions coming from the crowd.
Unimpressed with Garner and the crowd he attracts, the four actors decide that they, too can make a film and give themselves the roles that studios have denied them. Considering Jett’s relative ease, it seems like an inviting proposition.
But the four of them quickly discover that traveling out to a cottage in the woods to work on the script. The process is counterproductive because their progress is inversely proportional to the amount of alcohol they consume.
The nerdy Chad is nursing an overwhelming crush on Michelle, who wants Matt. Meanwhile Catherine may have broken up with Matt but isn’t eager to give him up.
Adding another bit of tension to the proceedings, Michelle starts having dreams about a stalker staring into their windows. The man simply stands still and can’t be identified because he’s wearing a bag over his head.
As the weekend unfolds, the film shifts radically in tone, and the seemingly loose approach works in the movie’s favor. It becomes hard to tell if the danger is real or if the booze is starting to make the would-be writers paranoid.
The action unfolds in an almost documentary-like style that makes the plot twists seem as real as they are abrupt. The characters gradually evolve from self-absorbed losers to potentially sympathetic victims.Because it only settles on a tone toward the end, “Baghead” is interesting simply because it continually throws viewers off guard. It’s reminiscent of a cracked funhouse mirror. Its images might not be a smooth as they once were, but it ends up creating entirely new comically-distorted visions.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2008 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2008 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2008 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.