Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 03/11/03 05:37:00

"Gritty, intense, but it takes a loooong time to find its feet."
3 stars (Average)

SCREENED AT THE 2003 SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST FILM FESTIVAL: It's perhaps a pet peeve of mine that every low budget digital video flick I seem to see these days feels compelled to take the low budget feel to an extreme by letting the camera shake, lose focus, miss its mark and generally nauseate an audience. Okay, sure, a dolly costs money, but a tripod doesn't. Not a lot, anyway. In Deprivation, the story and performances eventually win over the audience, but not before the 'gritty feel' of the production stretches their patience to breaking point. Ultimately, whether or not you dig Deprivation depends on whether or not you stick around for the end. And several in this audience didn't.

Jesse Scolaro makes his feature debut as writer, director and producer of this largely improv'ed work, featuring Neil Driscoll Jr as Steven, a lonely dude who could well be the antithesis of anyone who has ever been featured on Sex And The City. Spending his days in a nervous funk, staring at women in the park, calling up hookers just to hear their voices, barely bothering to shave and getting primo pleasure out of seeing a rat get its neck snapped in a trap, this is the kind of guy that you always see in your building, but never see in movies.

Then one day an old high school buddy comes calling. Thomas (Jeremy Davidson) hasn't spoken to our hero for years but suddenly needs a place to stay. Gregarious, outspoken, brash and perhaps even a little violent, Thomas is exactly the kind of guy Steven thinks he needs in his life. At least for a while.

But Thomas has a darker side. In fact, Thomas' dark side is so dark that it takes much of the importance out of the film itself. What starts out as a compelling character study soon moves into the realm of Tarantino-esque violence and a conclusion that doesn't really sit well with what is, at least for the first 4/5 of the movie, realistic and honest. Yes, Thomas is a nutbar, but just how much of a nutbar he is, and just how weak Steven is, could well have your eyes rolling.

Jesse Scolaro is not an untalented filmmaker, and perhaps the very nature of improv works against the flow of this story in ways that were out of his control, but when it comes right down to it, Deprivation runs as hot and cold as a Motel 6 shower. And I write for Hollywood Bitchslap, so I should know.

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