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In the perfectly normal town of Louisville, KY, there is a perfectly normal man living the perfect life. David Dailey is a man who has it all: A great career, a community that adores him, and an enduring marriage. But beneath the surface, David's idyllic world is crumbling. He's haunted by a series of mysterious notes that warn of an imminent fall from grace. His sultry wife Susan is hell-bent on expanding the horizons of their sex life - with or without him. His longtime assistant Whit is gunning for his job. And he finds himself increasingly attracted to Melody Carpenter, a curious stranger he instinctively trusts because she doesn't know him well enough to betray him. Complicating matters, Melody's jilted boyfriend Sean, a charming and talented trust fund baby, regards David and Melody's fledgling friendship with contempt. As his jealousy seethes deeper, he concocts a devious plan to win her back, unaware his overly protective father has ordered his number one ally to keep an eye ... Written by
Lunacy Unlimited Productions
I'll begin by saying that this is the best American movie I have seen in 2005, which may not say much since I try to steer my viewing habits to things of greater merit than mind-numbingly insulting garbage that comes out of Hollywood these days. Other outstanding American films of the year so far include SIN CITY and CRASH.
KEEP YOUR DISTANCE is hailed as a mystery thriller, which is somewhat misleading considering the mystery is secondary to the primary focus of studying the characters' psychology in modern society by looking at their public and private lives.
The spontaneous, down-to-earth performances is the film's greatest asset. No moment stands out as showy, as popular blockbusters would try to impress us with badass personalities, or as experimental art films would consciously pile layers upon layers of subtleties. This type of independent film has the perfect balance in the spectrum, in my humble opinion, which another review has mentioned that it "tries" to look like mainstream, and I'll just add that it offers more depth. In little moments like Melody's spontaneous yet helpless laughter in response to David Dailey's awkward line "I've been there (Chicago)," it's obvious that the film isn't trying to sell its stars, cool characters, or edge-of-your-seat action. All it's doing, is offering a realistic character study, taking in issues that have become central to society only recently, for example the drive for workaholism and its consequences on personal life, the long term devastation of marrying the wrong person, as well as maintaining the right distance in relationships, as the title suggests. If art is to imitate real life, then KEEP YOUR DISTANCE is an outstanding work of art.
Several themes gradually unfold in parallel situations, such as the parallel between the Lentz scandal and David Dailey's own problems, and common dissatisfaction in the relationship of Melody and Sean paralleling that of David and Susan. In Melody's case, marrying the wrong man phased out her trust for everything. When she checks into a hotel room, she routinely looks under the bed and behind the shower curtain, as if not doing so will jeopardize her security. Such insecurity distances her from her new boyfriend Sean, who has a habit of spying, and even sets up a secret camera overlooking his band mates. As a side note, I think Sean probably inherited this habit from his wealthy father, whom we see paying people to keep an eye on other people. As for David, his wife Susan has been calling the shots since their marriage. They have had a lot of luck, and all can be attributed to her initiatives. David finally realizes that their marriage isn't about two people, but about one person, which cannot be sustained.
The ending is a bit of a letdown because the solution to the mystery is not earth-shakingly complicated. However, this is in tune with the rest of the film's down-to-earth approach, which still manages to play out impressively captivating (and in my opinion is a case of simplicity bearing superiority).
Inevitably, this kind of character study film will always trigger criticism for being boring or "nothing happens" (case in point: THE LIMEY, another personal favorite). In my opinion, such accusation is a lame move generally coming from viewers that have been trapped in mainstream blockbusterland. Needless to say, many such viewers are handicapped by short attention span and lack of exposure to the other end of the spectrum (namely films bearing more complexity, originality, sophistication, depth, boldness, and imagination).
KEEP YOUR DISTANCE is a fine film because it aims to impress us by delivering elements fundamental to the art: strong performances, interesting storytelling, and thorough characterization. Most mainstream blockbusters cannot touch a genuine independent showcase like this one because there's hardly any substance underneath their star power and high tech tricks.
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