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I had high hopes for A PROBLEM WITH FEAR as it began started to roll last week on Reel 13 (I know, I know, I'm getting behind on the blogs I have more of a life now ). The film, yet another Canadian entry, looks really strong with an evocative, crisp color palette. It seemed like it was going to be a suspenseful, Hitchcockian thriller. It didn't take long, however, for me to realize that my expectations were not going to be filled. A Problem with Fear turned out to be mocking Hitchcock films (as opposed to lampooning them the way Mel Brooks did in HIGH ANXIETY) and was instead a twisted comedy that unfortunately, wasn't even very funny.
The film should really be called "A Problem with Tone". Bizarre choices are made throughout the piece, all of which seem to adversely affect the tonality issue. I have no doubt, at this point, that the film wanted to be a comedy, but it certainly took itself awfully seriously at times. In a way, the richness of the imagery and the strength of the production design belied the ostensibly intentional silliness of the narrative. Additionally, director Gary Burns overused a fog filter-type device that he placed over each side of the frame to give a feeling of disorientation. Instead, it detracts from the comedy element and it's not interesting enough to be effective from a dramatic point of view. It's more of a nuisance than anything else.
Speaking of nuisances, another weird aspect to the film was the characterization of the girlfriend, Dot. I'll admit that Emily Hampshire impressed me with her ability to create a complete, believable, three-dimensional character, but somewhere along the line, someone might have realized that the character's annoying qualities would get to be, well, annoying. She made the interesting choices of giving the character the leading lady a lisp, braces, an oddball sense of fashion and a bad, selfish attitude. Unusual, out-of-the-box thinking? For sure. Serving the betterment of the film? Not so much. Meanwhile, the gorgeous female of the film (Camille Sullivan, who's also quite good) actually turns out to be the older sister of the hunky leading man (Paolo Costanzo) and it seems that she, apparently in her late 20's, runs a huge corporation that is responsible for everyone's fears coming true. If that sounds ridiculous, that's because it is.
The film's supporters would probably suggest that I missed the point of the film, but the social commentary about the commercialization of fear was not lost on me. I just don't think that justifies the consistently poor choices made throughout the film. Just because a film has a message, in whatever style it chooses to deliver that message, doesn't mean the film is any good. And A PROBLEM WITH FEAR just isn't.
(For more information on this or any other Reel 13 film, check out their website at www.reel13.org)
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