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Rhinoceros Eyes is a fantastical coming-of-age story revolving around Chep, a young, reclusive prop-house employee who falls in love with a detail-obsessed movie production designer named Fran. Fran's need for authentic props sends Chep to great and questionable lengths as he tries to satisfy her requests, and ultimately... win her heart. Written by
Michael Pitt is an extremely promising young actor, and if there's anything that prevents this mild mess from being a complete failure, it's him. The story is very appealing, and Aaron Woodley clearly had a beautiful vision in mind when bringing it to life, but there are a lot of directorial mistakes here, as well as some problems in the writing. An interesting plot line and a solid performance aren't enough to carry a film, and Rhinoceros Eyes is good proof of that fact.
The story revolves around Chep (Pitt), an introverted recluse who has built his entire existence inside of a rarely visited prop-store. One day, a pretty set designer comes in asking him to help her acquire props for her film. Chep is more than eager to help her, because he thinks it will be best for his romantic interest.
Up to this point, the film is superb. It's stylishly shot, the atmosphere is strong and Michael Pitt's performance still carries a strong novelty. The story has a sort of compelling otherness to it, and there's genuine interest built around Chep's motives. However, the film takes a disappointing turn, and it develops into somewhat of an artistic mess.
Chep goes on a number of dangerous hunts for the attractive set designer to hunt down her props, and they become more and more ludicrous as the story progresses. He wears a goofy rubber mask to hide his identity, and stumbles into various buildings occupied by what appear to be send-ups to cartoon characters. Narrowly escaping a vengeful (and very energetic) old woman, an angry porno movie director, and much more, he brings the lady every prop she could possibly ask for.
By this point the film has steered its sub-genre completely astray. It begins as a somewhat surreal character drama, and attempts at a Lynchian tale full of perverse weirdness but Woodley doesn't understand the riveting aspect of the bizarre, and ends up bringing us scenes and images that are more silly than anything.
Despite the flawed script and questionable direction, the movie keeps our attention in a strange way. Pitt's acting remains original and unpredictable, and when he's unmasked we can't take our eyes off of him. There is also some fantastic animation to take into account, used to bring about the ominous prop characters in Chep's mind. This is a picture full of ideas, semi-formed and fully-formed, but the use of animation was one of the most well-nurtured and fascinating concepts.
Regardless of the cloudiness of the ideas executed, there is definitely some merit in its uniqueness, but ultimately it falters too badly to be a credible film experience. I didn't necessarily dislike Rhinoceros Eyes, but I was certainly disappointed. I was expecting an indie gem of some sort, and I was surprised at the sloppy little oddity I was given instead.
Not highly recommended, but it's nothing to steer clear of. It's worth a look for the lead performance. I still believe that Michael Pitt could become something big, and I'll be sure to keep up with his work.
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