CAPSULE: In this very low-budget drama a man in his twenties realizes that in spite of his outward appearance of success he is dissatisfied with just about every aspect of his life. His friends have the intellects and curiosity of Eloi. His job and his boss are painful to even think about. Chris has to decide if he will go back to living death or if he will seize the day. In spite of its modest production values the film tells its story and it might be a situation that the viewer will find familiar. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
You know a completed film you are dealing with is low-profile when you put the title of the film and the director's name--he is also the writer--into the Internet Movie Database and it comes back not found. This is a film made on the cheap--the really cheap. Supposedly the shooting costs were $3000. That is for actors (all seven of them), crew, everyone. It has no explosions, no car chases, no superheroes, no zombies, and no familiar actors (at least not familiar to me). Instead it is about people in a situation and how they react. Digital photography brings with it the promise of films much like COLD DECEMBER. A newcomer no longer needs a studio to back him as a filmmaker. A feature film can now be made for the price of a hobby.
Chris (Chris Fountain) has a pretty wife, a well-paying job, fancy Chicago surroundings, friends, and a deep feeling dissatisfaction. As the film opens he admits to his life that he is just not very happy. It turns out this is not the first time he has made this declaration to his wife Kate (Alyssa Roehrenbeck). He has been quietly desperate for the last five years. But this cold December is the winter of his discontent. His life has become bland and repetitive. He works each day at a job he secretly hates, for a boss he not-so-secretly hates. He goes to the gym after work. When the weekend comes he gets together with his friends he drinks and he talks about sports. Sometimes he does drugs. And when the week is gone all he has to show for it is a paycheck and a week is gone from his life.
At first we wonder if he is not just having a psychological crisis. But writer/director Brian Wright soon dispels that interpretation by showing us his friends. They are painfully boring. They all are cut with the same cookie cutter. They all like (incredibly) heavy drinking. When the wives are not around they talk about sex on a very dull level. In front of the wives the topic goes back to sports. The wives meanwhile talk about the transcendental experience they had seeing these beautiful fur-topped boots that are for sale and are just perfect. Somehow Chris has awakened and realized that all his friends are dead already. Not so much literally, but they are mentally moribund.
The film is shot mostly with what appears to be a handheld digital camera, reportedly over a five-day shooting schedule that would have made Roger Corman proud. Sometimes the camera shakes even when the characters are standing still. The film is about 82 minutes long and even then it sometimes lingers on a scene after the characters have left it, perhaps just to show a Chicago building-scape. It is nearly impossible in film to convey the fact that someone is bored without being a little boring to the audience. About the only way to show people are boring without boring the audience it to make it humorous. Sometimes Brian's friends are funny and sometimes they are just dull.
I would like to feel that these dull people are a comic fiction. Unfortunately, I think that Brian Wright might be right. The eventual statement made by the film may be a little trite even for so short a film. I rate COLD DECEMBER a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10. My understanding is that this film will not play on the art house circuit. It will go direct to DVD and to Netflix.
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2008 Mark R. Leeper