Fandom and toxic masculinity take a dark turn in Michael Mandell's debut, The Movie from Gravitas Ventures. A former child star, Janet Gillespie (Bonnie Root), is home alone one night when the doorbell rings. Walter (Jarrod Pistilli), a boy who works for a delivery service, shows up with a large package on a dolly to deliver to Janet.
There is no doubt in his mind that she is familiar to him. Takes a selfie with her. As if that is not enough, he tells her he has written a screenplay for her and even has it with him. Suddenly, Janet is attached to a dolly, and Walter is shooting his movie in her house right in front of her eyes. It goes without saying that Walter isn't a delivery boy at all. Walter is a renegade director who is doing whatever he has to do to get his film made.
However, carrying the title Water Under the Fridge, it just so happens to be the most awful movie of all time. In Walter's opinion, it is only compelling if it is accurate. He forces Janet to go through the things her character is living through in a twisted act of art imitating life. There's an onscreen kiss, a love scene, even a death scene, and Janet's gotta do it all, with or without consent.
I commend Michael Mandel for making the bold choice of having only two actors in his debut. The filmmaking choice also took place in the past to significant effect. Most recently, with 2014's Gravity and in classics such as 1972's Sleuth and 1981's My Dinner With Andre. Naturally, there are times when the choice doesn't work for me, particularly with Gus Van Sants Gerry and Lars Von Trier's Antichrist, despite being a fan of their previous work.
Thankfully Mandel keeps the running time short and taps into his premise skillfully. Primarily the film works due to the strength of our actors. Bonnie Roots display the necessary emotions for an actress who has seen better days, particularly during a monologue where she breaks down about her situation.
In the role of Walter, Jarrod Pistill is purely manic as he takes his filmmaking aspirations and fandom to toxic levels. Honestly, Walter reminded me of the fans who used to hang out on the IMBD message boards and have a distorted sense of reality. Pistell is evil in the role, making sense when he reveals his motivation for why he turned out the way he did.
One particular scene where Walter does a violent act to Janet is just chilling, as is the character's desire to film everything. This motivation carries over to another scene that I won't spoil. However, it could have come across as comical, but it works. For me, this was a context of how far folks will go for fame.
Never overstaying its welcome and keeping a short run time, The Movie is a decent debut from Michael Mandell and carried by his actors. The film was a labor of love for Michael Mandell, and while his budget was limited, his talent is evident, and I look forward to his next project.
Final Grade: B-
The Movie is available on digital platforms on September 6th