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Plus One
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by Jay Seaver

"Gets its good bits out in double time."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2013 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: One of the first things one might notice about "Plus One", if one is inclined to read the credits, is that among the list of finance and production entities are two visual effects companies, suggesting that the tail may be wagging the dog a little here. And while I think Dennis Iliadis has enough else on his mind that he's not just helping defray a demo reel by attaching a story that can earn it some video-on-demand money, it does wind up being a very mixed bag.

David (Rhys Wakefield) didn't go to college after high school, and when visiting girlfriend Jill (Ashley Hinshaw) for her fencing tournament, he does something dumb enough that she breaks up with him on the spot. A few weeks later, when all his high school friends are back in town for the summer, he and his friend Teddy (Logan Miller) are getting ready to head to a huge party put on by local rich kid Angad (Rohan Kymal), and he's hoping Jill's there. She is, but wants no part of him, shredding his apology. But! A meteor crashed to earth nearby, and it's having some strange effects - while much of the party has moved to the backyard, an exact duplicate of everyone at the party from a half hour earlier appears in the house, where only David, Teddy, their shy friend Allison (Suzanne Dengel), and Melanie (Natalie Hall) - the super-hot girl Teddy is trying to make time with - have stayed behind.

What Iliadis (who directed and came up with the story Bill Gullo scripted) seems to have in mind is actually quite clever - he's grafted a high-concept fantasy that plays with ideas of second chances and how slight changes can change a person that could play as overly-philosophical onto a raunchy and crass just-past-teen comedy. Any stuffiness present is well-disguised, while the fantasy meant to illustrate the story's larger points also makes for some funny, sexy situations. Some of the uses of the idea are a bit obvious, but occasionally play nicely against the stereotypical way this story runs.

The way the script plays out, though, can be a bit of a mess. "Two of everyone" is a lot of moving parts to keep track of, while it's only really important for a few characters (at first), trying to keep track of which Jill is which dilutes her character a bit. A certain amount of confusion is good - these are nineteen-year-olds who have been drinking and there's no reason for them to have any idea of what's going on or what they should do about it - Iliadis and Gullo seem to boost it unnecessarily with bits that require these guys to come up with theories. It also puts the movie on course to becoming a horror story, which seems like the least interesting way to go, especially with the limited time they give themselves to deal with the aftermath.

Underneath all that chaos, though, there are actually a fair number of good bits that add up just enough to make the movie fun and occasionally interesting. As a parody of crazy-party movies - albeit one close enough to what it's spoofing as may make no difference - there's a fun self-awareness of its absurdity and crudity. Natalie Hall's Melanie, for instance, is a sneaky treat; initially introduced as The Girl Who Gets Naked, she gets to mock another character for just now noticing that she's funny, and I wish they'd done more with the odd-couple pairing of she and Logan Miller's Teddy. Rhys Wakefield is kind of a blank as David, but Ashley Hinsaw has some good moments as Jill (although, filmmakers - you can't show us how much she really enjoys fencing in the first couple of scenes, introduce a samurai sword later, and not pay it off). There are plentiful moments of fine absurdity.

The effects guys pull things together well, as well they should. They likely do get a little help - Suzanne Dengel has an identical twin - but there may be one moment of compositing that really looks off, and that's more than offset by a scene of a whole lot of people confronting doppelgangers in a tight room that must have been an absolute beast to shoot and put together for a movie of this scale, but didn't register as such until after I'd left the theater. The meteor and associated effects are showy, but that's no sin.

It's well-done enough in those little details that might not get noticed that I found myself liking it more than I probably should. The story could really have used some nailing down, but energy and good bits make up for a lot.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=24800&reviewer=371
originally posted: 08/08/13 07:57:08
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 South by Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2013 South by Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2013 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

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USA
  20-Sep-2013
  DVD: 14-Jan-2014

UK
  N/A

Australia
  20-Sep-2013


Directed by
  Dennis Iliadis

Written by
  Bill Gullo

Cast
  Rhys Wakefield
  Logan Miller
  Ashley Hinshaw
  Natalie Hall



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