REALITi Review From Fantastic Fest. Jonathan King’s New Film Has Some Giant Flaws
Micro budget films often have a great charm. They’re under lit, gritty and really ambitious at times. They’re made for and with love, and it often shows. But then there are those in this genre that are overly ambitious to a fault, and the whole package ends up suffering a great deal. You can’t make a great film without a great script, I don’t care how much money you have, or don’t have.
Unfortunately, the case with Jonathan King’s new film, REALITi, is that the script isn’t all that great. The movie wants so badly to be a big mind trip, with repetitions and eerie music, strange occurrences and time lapses, but it hardly even achieves a hint of intrigue from the get go. It starts with the strained acting in the opening scene, a confusing, no-tension setup that pretty much stays intact most of the film. Nothing is believable.
The acting wasn’t all bad, though. The main character, Vic (played by Nathan Meister, New Zealand’s mash-up of Cary Elwes and Martin Freeman), was believable as an overwhelmed new executive at some nebulous news agency, and he carried the movie with his somber, contemplative gazes. But his face wasn’t enough to spare us the confusion of his blathering lawyer’s constant presence and that of his wife’s (Or is she Vic’s wife? Or the strung out junkie from the opening scene?). And then there’s the hot scientist gone rogue (a woman from the opening scene) and her band of helpful terrorists in the greenhouse, another tangent that only diverts focus.
The style of the film interesting. The use of glowing, unfamiliar electronics (a pure white phone that glows blue) is intriguing, but the constant soundtrack perhaps meant to arouse anxiety becomes distracting and cancels much of the style out. Each scene is quiet, but the lack of energy is like a dump truck through mud. You keep waiting for something to happen, anything, and halfway through, when it doesn’t, you’re sadly not surprised. This reality-bending, identity-confusing plot could work better in more capable hands, but King doesn’t seem to have a sure hand guiding the film forward.
Ultimately, the movie comes across as a sub-par Philip K. Dick adaptation. While the ideas are great, I really wanted them to come together in some fantastical, big way, but I was so irritated by it all that even if it did I wouldn’t have been pleased. Aside from the goofy dialogue (“I thought we could have some special time”) and the grating need to be weird for its own sake (what was the deal with that red box?), the movie wasn’t a winner. While King seems like he’s on the brink of something really great, it’s not just this movie.