Monday, April 7, 2008

Quality Time

Stewart Savage (Corin Nemic) lives in a dystopic future where the ice caps are melting and the military controls all aspects of everyday life. Also, Stewart is a serial killer.

Chris LaMont’s experimental / sci-fi / family drama / dark comedy is a genre-bending film that’s in equal turns funny and thought-provoking, bleak and idyllic, and perverse and extremely perverse. The film begins with a nostalgic recreation of 1950s America, complete with a diner, milkshakes, and a jukebox. It’s eerily perfect, but something’s just not quite right about its deeply-saturated and vibrant colors. It doesn’t take long to figure out that this vision of the tranquil 50s is a little too ideal to be real. Soon it’s revealed to be nothing more than Stewart’s sick fantasy that obscures his even sicker reality. Cutting to the real world in present day (now gloomy, dank, and gray), we see what Stewart’s really up to: choking the last bit of life out of his co-worker Susan.

After this, things start to get a bit disturbing. Stewart, who we find out is the notorious North City Stalker, brings Susan’s lifeless body home to meet his parents. Stewart is fully unaware of the disconnect between fantasy and reality, and he doesn’t really understand that Susan is his latest murder victim and not his soon-to-be wife. His parents have become complacent with his slip into psychosis, but his cohabitating neighbors are a little less sympathetic. When they show up to the apartment, Stewart pulls a gun and forces the whole group to speak candidly to one another.

It’s not easy being Stewart. He holds a meaningless that job he hates, still lives with his parents, and is having a rough time with dating (maybe because he keeps strangling his girlfriends). To top it off, Quality Time takes place in a post-apocalyptic future, but the melting of the polar ice caps is almost a MacGuffin – a kick in the ribs for Stewart, a dose of salt in the wound of his already screwed up life. As if his tenuous grasp on reality wasn’t enough, he’s also got to deal with the impending death of entire population. It isn’t all bad, though – Newark has been completely wiped off the map.

What’s most interesting about Stewart’s two worlds is how seamlessly they can blend into one another. Though he fancies himself one of the Osmonds or a member of the Cleaver clan, his disturbed mind can’t keep his disturbed thoughts out of his fantasy world. He can put on a fake smile and sweater, but he can’t quit avoid killing people – even in his fantasies.

If you think you see more than just a few familiar faces in Quality Time, you’re absolutely right. Stewart is played by Corin Nemec, a regular on Stargate SG-1 and the star of the SciFi original movie Mansquito. Stewart’s father is played by Bruce Weitz, who is currently on General Hospital and is an Emmy-winner for his role on Hill Street Blues. John de Lancie, Stewart’s housemate, was a regular on Days of Our Lives for six years. Nancy Allen, star of Dressed to Kill, plays Stewart’s mother.

But the real star of Quality Time is the uniquely stylized aesthetic. Cinematographer Icardo Tourner's beautiful photography provided the framework for LaMont and Visual Effects Supervisor Rene de la Fuente, who spent over a year manipulating each frame to achieve the look of the film. The color-soaked 50s sequences are perfectly realized, while the reality everyone else lives in is as dirty, dark, and cramped. The film has a scratched, faded, and fuzzy look to it – like this is a beaten up print of a forgotten 80s sci-fi film. This stylish look is given an ironic spin due to Stewart’s deep hatred for television and film. “Show me the perfect family and I’ll tell you to change the channel,” says Stewart. Unfortunately for him, he can’t control the content of his own mind any better than he can control the content of the television. LaMont and de la Fuente also insert brief flashes of television static as Stewart’s reception of reality is more and more distorted. This is a great looking film.

Quality Time is a product of Emmy Award winner Chris LaMont, an ASU graduate (where he currently teaches film production). LaMont’s first feature The Best Movie Ever Made was a previous selection at the Arizona International Film Festival.

It doesn’t matter what you’re looking for, this movie has definitely got it, and it’s all courtesy of a local talent. Filled with strong performances, an extremely stylish aesthetic, and a very smart script, Quality Time is a strangely funny but weighty film that really deserves to be seen.

Quality Time is playing on Saturday, April 26th at 9:30 p.m. at The Screening Room.


Mia said...

When you have to pick between
Quality Time and Quantity Time,
Quality Time wins hands down everytime.

Mia said...

The best part about festival is that you get to INTERACT with the filmmakers and people involved with the films.
Turns out that the Cinematographer was not as involved in this film's look as it was the Art Director.

So, come to the festival and ASK those questions: "Is it true that you sold a kidney to make the film and what are you going to if you make a sequel?"
" Is it true you kick your little brother out of his room to make it a production office?"
"Why did you name the actress after your ex-girlfriend?" Ask any question that you can think of.
The best part of festivals is that you can actually TALK and hang out with the people that made the films!!!
HOW COOL IS THAT!?! You can't do that after Spiderman 3.
So, come, enjoy and blog about the films.

Unknown said...

Actually the look of this particular film is created by me, the Director of the film, and Visual Effects Director Rene de la Feunte. Every frame of the film has been digitally altered, based on my original vision for the look of the film. And it's pretty sweet. Hope all of you come out and see my weird movie - Saturday Night, 9:30 PM at the Screening Room! I'll be there, along with Rene and screenplay writer Craig Belanger!