Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Time Loops And Pointless Parties: +1 Is Unimpressive.

The Good: Moments of performance, Elements of the concept, Moments of direction
The Bad: Lascivious direction, Continuity/concept issues, Most of the character aspects
The Basics: The independent science fiction film +1 finds a whole bunch of teenage partygoers repeating time.

I like science fiction and I get a kick out of checking out independent science fiction films. Sometimes, though, there is a reason indie sci-fi movies do not break out. Some of the works, like Snow Queen (reviewed here!) are pathetically low-budget and have severe licensing issues. +1, though, seems like it is conceptually flawed and populated by virtually unknown young actors. Instead of being a high concept film that has some execution problems, +1 has some serious issues when it starts to try to explain itself. The result is a movie that jumbles teen melodrama, science fiction and really dumb party movie.

Unfortunately, the really dumb party movie is the dominant film genre for most of +1. When the movie, which features repeating time loops, tries to have drunk teenagers explain metaphysics, temporal mechanics, and philosophy, it treads into a completely ridiculous place and it transitions poorly from teen party movie (like Project X, reviewed here!) into clunky science fiction/horror.

Opening with David paying his girlfriend, Jill, a visit at her college for a fencing match, David stupidly kisses the young woman who beat Jill in her match. As David commiserates with Teddy about his mistake and finds himself blocked by Jill on social networking sites, a meteor crashes to Earth nearby. As the meteor spreads some sort of energy along the power lines, David and Teddy walk over to the biggest party of the year. There, David tries to find Jill (who is supposedly blowing every guy she sees) and Teddy meets Melanie, who surprises him by being willing to sleep with him. Outside, Kyle (a weed dealer who has been kept out of the party) and Bonnie witness an anomaly at the power line, which sends Bonnie running away. When the power goes out after Teddy and Melanie have sex and Jill rejects David, the power returns . . . and the party has some additional guests. Teddy finds himself shocked to have another Melanie in bed with him (the one he just had sex with is in the shower) and Dave witnesses one Kyle killing another version of himself.

Quickly realizing – by observing other versions of themselves downstairs – that time is somehow repeating itself – Teddy, David, and their wallflower friend Allison try desperately to figure out what is going on and to keep the replicated versions of the partygoers from themselves (whatwith most of the guests having moved to a point outside where they are dancing and watching two strippers perform). David uses the opportunity to replay his conversation with Jill, this time saying all the things he knows she wants to hear, while Teddy gets curious and looks in on the two Melanies and his alternate self. Allison reacts differently to being bullied by dumping a drink on the mean girl who set her up to be embarrassed the first time through. But when the alternates abruptly vanish, then reappear from a point later on in the timestream (Teddy and Melanie, for example, are talking when all of a sudden alternate versions of themselves are mid-coitus elsewhere in the same room), Teddy begins to fear what the consequences of the alternates will be. After convincing the others to move to the boathouse, an Alternate Teddy incites fear into the partygoers and some of the teens begin to kill their alternates. With David trying desperately to prevent Jill from hooking up with Steve, the rest of the partygoers lapse into fear over what will happen when their alternates return next.

The element of +1 that works best is the concept that David actually desperately wants to make things right with Jill. His sense of loss and loneliness is palatable throughout. Also fairly clever is Allison’s attempt to befriend herself and avoid all of the ensuing chaos.

The direction is also good, except for the fact that director Dennis Iliadis spends most of the time making a dumb teen party movie. That means a throbbing soundtrack (part of which is actually relevant to the characters understanding the time loop) and slow pans over a lot of half-naked young women. Iliadis is devoted to doing what virtually every party movie director has done which is to use the camera in a way that feels entirely exploitative; it’s not artful the way he drags the camera in for close-ups of bouncing breasts and bare butts.

A number of specific elements utterly fail in +1. Foremost in my mind is Iliadis casting twins Colleen and Suzanne Dengel as Allison and her alternate. In addition to forcing the twins into a kiss (which is pretty perverse, despite the odd porn acceptance of such things as somehow not-quite incest, though it is . . . ), Iliadis proves he’s a pretty inept director. Instead of forcing an actress to play off herself and have a real acting and directing challenge, Iliadis takes what seems like the easy way out. Unfortunately, the longer they are on screen, the more evident the differences between Colleen and Suzanne become. They might be identical twins, but when they are face to face, it is painfully obvious they are not the same person and for the story of +1, that’s actually a problem.

The big problem on the character front comes with Teddy. Teddy convinces everyone to move to the boat house and he’s on to the right idea. Why he doesn’t have everyone move again (like back into the house or to leave the party and head home to prevent alternates from ever catching up with themselves) is less of a mystery and more of a braindead plothole. Teddy finally has everyone convinced (and most worried) so the party need not generate into a crowded, mutant fight scene.

The main performers are generally good, even though Rhys Wakefield is mostly asked to stare longingly after Ashley Hinshaw’s Jill as David. Logan Miller does fine with the technobabble and the Dengels are good, despite not being given a truly substantive role(s?). While Natalie Hall may have been cast largely for how she looks naked, she plays off Miller well-enough to be more watchable than eye rolling.

Such, however, is not the case for +1. The long build-up to the first duplication does not pay off in an interesting-enough way for the viewer to believe it was worth it. The set-up for a potentially bigger and less engaging sequel seems pitiful and the issues (how do the strippers on stage know something is wrong when none of the partygoers but Alternate Teddy do?!) pop up almost immediately. The writing was not careful enough to make +1 truly compelling, so Dennis Iliadis fleshes the movie out with boob shots and drunken revelry, which is not enough to pass for entertaining.

For other science fiction films with young protagonists, please visit my reviews of:


For other film reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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