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Oversimplification of Her Beauty, An
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by Jay Seaver

"Frequently beautiful, but admittedly not overcomplicated."
4 stars

"An Oversimplification of Her Beauty" began life as a short film, "How Would You Feel?", and goes about building that work up to a feature in an unusual way, not so much expanding it but responding to it. It's an interesting idea, although dangerous - the original piece was sort of self-centered as it was - but filmmaker Terence Nance (along with a team of animators) has put together something striking and entertaining enough that many will enjoy it, even if it does just annoy others.

"How Would You Feel?", at least as presented in this movie, was a riff on a reasonably simple idea: Terence gets home from a long day at his job and the workshop (where he is attempting to fabricate a bed for himself based upon a novice's understanding of Japanese wood joinery), having looked forward to spending the evening with a girl he's known for a few months who certainly seems like may be as attracted to him as he is to her. Instead, she calls and says she won't be coming over, and if that happened to you... Well, how would you feel?

It's an amusing premise for a short, and while it's got a fair amount of potential to be kind of presumptuous and whiny, there's a certain amount of self-deprecation to it - the deep-voiced narrator could come straight from one of those "How to..." Goofy cartoon, and while the structure is often a loop of running through the same series of events with a little more detail added to (supposedly) make Terence's situation sound more sympathetic, the tone often becomes a little more mocking, though not flagrantly so. It's a fine balance between earnestly depicting a young man in love and suffering a tiny heartbreak that feels like it may be the missed opportunity and having a little fun with the structure of the thing.

Instead of just running the short continuously, though, there will every so often be an effect of a VHS tape being ejected and then someone pressing Play on another one, and those interspersed segments are "An Oversimplification of Her Beauty", which aims to give context by describing the other romantic relationships in Terence's life from before he met Namik, showing some home movies from his early life, and following up on what went on after this particular day in 2006. Sometimes it's literal; sometimes it's done with animation in a variety of different forms, from hand-drawn to stop-motion.

It is, at the very least, nice to look at: No matter the particular medium in use, the animation looks good, neither conspicuously polished nor suffering from a jerky low frame rate. The designs are often beautiful, especially as they get more abstract and fantastical (and, thankfully, "abstract" and "detailed" are not treated as opposites). Nance does a number of other nifty and imaginative things aside from finding good collaborators for the animation - a bit in a cinema where he just can't seem to get close to her is especially nice - and while a fair amount of the live-action footage must, logically, be staged or recreated, it has the feeling of reality nevertheless.

He's also mostly able to dodge the question over whether his crush merits a couple of projects that add up to a feature. Part of it is that Namik certainly seems worth it (her name is obscured or garbled in most spots but clearly visible in others, which mostly works to make the project feel less like the work of a stalker than it might); plus, there's genuine chemistry between the pair even as close friends. Still, the success of the movie for the viewer will almost certainly depend on how well he or she feels Nance manages to vary his execution of his fairly narrow subject. For various reasons, there is not a lot of Namik's perspective here - a shame, because the placed-on-the-spot comments she does have may be muddled, but they have unprocessed emotion - and it's eminently reasonable for those more interested in what someone has to say than the way he says it to want another perspective or a little more forward motion than the movie's narrow perspective allows.

So, it's no surprise that this is mostly playing art-house theaters; it's about playing with form and taking an unusual view of something commonplace. It's better than a lot of things that take that approach, though - there's warmth and beauty to it as opposed to mere intellectual analysis. Maybe not enough for some, but enough to make things interesting at the very least.

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originally posted: 06/20/13 10:04:43
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2012 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Dallas International Film Festival For more in the 2012 Dallas International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival For more in the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 48th Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 48th Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.

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Directed by
  Terence Nance

Written by
  Terence Nance

  Terence Nance
  Namik Minter
  Chanelle Pearson

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