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Quality Time
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by Jay Seaver

"Serial killers just want a party."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2008 BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL: Those who stay through the end credits of "Quality Time" will note that it had an indirect path in actually reaching the screen - some pieces are copyright 1997, though it's having its world premiere at BUFF eleven years later. That's a long time to sit on the shelf, much longer than it deserves.

It features Stewart Savage (Corin Nemec), a resident of an overcrowded future where the polar ice caps have melted. He lives with parents Jack (Bruce Weitz) and Linda (Nancy Allen), but they only have their apartment for half the day - at 6pm, they have to turn it over to Nathan Eastman (John de Lancie), his wife Victoria (Gail Strickland), and their son Victor (Jesse Harper). On top of that, Stewart is quite insane - he's just killed another girl (Meredith Salenger) and brought her home, convinced that he's bringing a still-breathing fiancée home for his father's birthday party.

The time spent on the shelf has allowed some of the visual effects to catch up to what director Chris LaMont envisioned when he first started the process, but even without the CGI, Quality Time would still take place in a well-imagined future, with little details like how Jack flips pictures around to prepare to turn the apartment over to the Eastmans selling an overcrowded world even though there's no way to do big crowd scenes. The shifts between how Stewart sees the world (brightly colored, slightly overexposed) and the way things are (grayish, a little grainy) are straightforward, but get the point across.

The actors, of course, vary their performances between the two main versions of reality as well - full of good cheer and free of any rough edges in the birthday party, frightened and angry in reality, and veering even further into black comedy when the film shifts to other venues, such as a Jerry Springer-esque talk show set when it becomes clear that Stewart isn't the only one with issues. I like how Nemec plays Stewart as fairly low-key even when he's killing or waving a gun around; it makes him seem even more genuinely disconnected from reality. Weitz and Allen are funny as his parents, acting as though their son's activities are mainly embarrassing; I particularly love how annoyed Jack seems to be most of the time. de Lancie and Strickland are similarly annoyed, just with no need to enable, and they're actors who are good with the sarcasm.

Most of Quality Time is good black comedy, and while sometimes the script (based on a stage play) gets a little obvious about which film, television, and stage conventions it is appropriating and lampooning, LaMont does a good job of not going too far overboard with that - it's not subtle, but it's not treating the audience like fools, either. Still, it's worth remembering that the audience responding well to it knew what they were getting into at an "underground film festival"; I can easily see people not liking it nearly as much if they came into it cold.

Strange has a place, though, and "Quality Time" is, for a movie about a serial killer in a dystopian future, an enjoyably light-hearted flavor of strange.

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originally posted: 03/26/08 13:27:03
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Boston Underground Film Festival For more in the 2008 Boston Underground Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/22/09 steve total crap, ...a youtube video. 1 stars
3/28/08 dc shuck good black comedy 4 stars
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