That kid who played a young Tom Hanks in Big is all grown up and making his directorial debut with Desolation. David Moscow’s Kickstarter-backed film is an interesting piece of cinema. One might say it is a thriller, a critique on Hollywood society, or a murder mystery. Some critics will say it is ‘dark media’, and this is not a bad descriptor. Characters and viewers alike are well kept in the dark, and this builds the premise and the twists. Plain Jane with a past meets Hollywood Hunk, gets whisked away to his creepy residence, and shit starts to hit the fan.
A mood is set with outdoor scenery shot in murky blue hues, and the bulk of the action taking place in an amazingly creepy apartment complex (which is more than likely a real building, as opposed to an elaborate set). There are no CG special effects. Actors are ‘ordinary’ as opposed to Hollywood Botox. Lead actress Dominik Garcia-Lorido (Andy Garcia’s daughter, by the way) is at times quite striking, but mostly just an everywoman. She is slender without being emaciated. Nobody hid her cellulite, tummy rolls, or made her wear heavily padded bras. Supporting actor Brock Kelly is a passably attractive Brad Pitt knockoff rather than a completely chiseled Ken Doll. This realism makes the overall story more relatable where it could have fallen into abominable clichés.
So here’s the bad news. You will probably hate it at first.
The acting is stiff. The dialogue is terrible. We start to question the ability of the cast. The jokes are politically incorrect for no apparent reason. Faggot. Rape jokes. Fat shaming. Laughing at violent suicides. Police brutality. This WILL trigger you if you’re at all socially conscious.
Did someone really say “I’d fuck him even if he had AIDS”??? Really? To play on Garcia-Larido’s character’s psychological trauma, was it necessary to include the soto voce racial slurs and total disrespect for personal boundaries? As social critique, we watch snot-nosed Hollywood millennials as well as authority figures disrespect the human race. Their words are meant to agitate the protagonist’s PTSD, but there might have been a more sensitive way to incorporate this concept.
Though the setup is like a silly B-movie, with crass, unfunny jokes, the turning point is everything. Neither the film’s title, synopsis, nor the first half of the story will prepare you for what’s to come. And boom! The same actors deliver at a completely different level. Keep your eye on the Priest. He is the most bizarrely portrayed character, giving the impression that either the script or the acting is below B-grade, but ah, how wrong an assessment! He will surprise you, and we can’t say more or it would steal all the punches of this little oddball of a film.
The concepts of voyeurism and mental health stigma run throughout. Under that is a look at the outright lies we tell ourselves, or allow others to dictate to us. Desolation is actually quite good, if you’re patient. Wait for it. Well designed, but guys, could you knock off the politically gauche bits of dialogue? You’d have a much stronger film.
Desolation opens in NYC and L.A. January 26th, 2018, with national showings to follow.