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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)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I think a lot of people here missed an important point in this film.
You see, yes the plot isn't explained, but it's NOT SUPPOSED to be
explained. You are supposed to have no idea why it is happening. It is
In this sense it is kind of like Dawn Of The Dead. In that people come back from the dead and the world is ending, but nobody knows why, it simply is.
Same exact idea here. Everyones fears are coming to pass, which could end up leading to the end of the world, and nobody knows why. It simply is.
After Laurie realizes it's pointless to try and figure things out he goes with the flow and tries to solve the problem. He feels that his fears of well, everything, are somehow connected and if he can beat his own fears the world wont end. Thus the film gets started and he faces each of his main fears one after another while at the same time you see the world slowly get ripped apart by the so called 'fear storm', which at first kills people with their fears, but then near the end of the film most of man kind simply goes mad with paranoia from trying to stop themselves from feeling fear altogether.
When people start walking around the mall smashing plates and whatever they can get their hands on, there's a real feel that we need fear, and trying to take it out of us is only going to do even more harm.
Well, anyways, you get the idea. The world is ending and are hero has to stop it. The film has a good sense of humor, is well acted, VERY smart, and is one of the only films that actually scared me, quite a lot.
So, I liked it, and I really don't get what the problem is.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
(Note: not really any spoilers, but this review may give more
information than the movie opts at first.
I watched this film entitled "A Problem With Fear (or Laurie's Anxiety Confronting the Escalator). It is a small, indie Canadian film that has seemingly gone semi-mainstream. The movie is a mellow-dramatic ensemble of fears with a sci-fi twist. You are probably wondering why I am even reviewing this movie of all movies; well, simply it bewildered my interest and me. So enjoy my little blurb and decide for yourself if it is worth ninety-two minutes of your life.
The movie stars Paulo Costanzo (T.V. Series: Joey) as a young man with The Fear. What is The Fear? It is a fear of everything from germs, to escalators, to open spaces the list goes on. The only thing he doesn't seem to be afraid of is openly letting people know of his neurotic tendencies.
Laurie (Costanzo) ironically works at a newsstand in the mall and, again, ironically has to take the oh-so-scary subway to get to work each morning. Though, the security guard is kind enough to escort him to his newsstand.
Laurie's girlfriend is a fashion-righteous symbol of pathetic annoyance named yes Dot. Though, not short for Dorothy, but Dotty. Lovely isn't it? Well, it would seem lovely enough to keep the laughs going during these two characters witty and sometimes even quirky scenes, but Gary Burns (Director/Writer) seemed to think it wasn't enough. Not enough to fulfill a full-length movie.
The subplot of Laurie's sister seemed entertaining at first, and proposed some intriguing questions of near suspense, but believe it or not it somehow made the story harder to follow. I will admit that I caught this flick on my paid-for extra channels and did miss the first 10 minutes, and could have seemingly missed the basis of the film in that short time, but my best guess is all I missed was Laurie's sister taking the scandalous corporate position at global security.
Now I am losing you. Let me track back for a second. The story is simple I think. This global security company sells wristbands that warn when danger is ahead; a nifty little gadget that seems to cause more harm than good (for the people of the city, but more good than harm for the company itself). The premise of the story is that the gadgets are all connected, warning of potential danger nearby as well as recent danger, and somehow a virus is released and people's fears begin to come true. A stickle for Laurie as he witnesses more than one death in less than forty-eight hours.
The ever-lingering theme: The corporate man rubs our back of our fears, pains and problems, but for a fee. A good theme, right? Sure it is, but the confusing plot and overbearing lack of actual substance to the theme kind of hinders the possibilities of this film. This could have been a film festival phenomenon, but somewhere along the lines Burns lost direction. I will admit, it was well directed, and even the effects were well used considering its low budget interior. And hey, it was filmed in Calgary I'm Canadian. Are you Canadian?.
Laurie was casted so well I nearly felt the poor boys pain, but it was without a doubt that Dot (Emily Hampshire) was the one who managed to steal their duo-pseudo-romantic/dramatic/comedic scenes. At first, I hated her then I realized that that is why I love her. I actually looked at the character and was so annoyed by her, that I got even more annoyed when the story moved on to Laurie, or his sister's subplot.
Although the movie was witty, comedic and intriguing to watch, it suffered in many areas. I found myself laughing at peculiar situation and shaking my head at quirky side notes, but when it came down to it Burns did not create a cohesive story and the main plot itself had such an arrogance about it that either you got it or you didn't. And if you didn't well, you felt out of the loop. Not just out of loop, but apart from the story. I felt this way at the beginning maybe because I missed the intro, or maybe because my humour or insight really isn't as fast-witted as I'd like to claim, but either way I was detached from the film and it wasn't until later when I began to catch on that I could even get into the movie.
So the movie has style and substance if you got it but overall seemed to have too many loose ends. However, don't let my negative critique fool you. I may only give this thing a 2/4, but I would recommend a look. And I say this because even though it lost me here and there, it opts free laughs and an entertaining ninety-two minutes.
It would be a shame to see this movie go on as unnoticed as it has, but hey it made the movie network didn't it? So take a look.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
first things first, i think paulo costanzo did an excellent job as laurie,
and that dot's character was a good addition to the story. you could feel
laurie's paranoia and the tension he feels being in uncomfortable
situations. this movie was quirky, which is what i liked about it.
*** WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD ***
i understand where mch2k is coming from though... it was sort of confusing. i didn't really understand WHY laurie controlled the people's fears, and what the deal was with the electronic fear-sensing gadgets. i agree that not enough time was spent on giving the background information, so the viewer was sort of left spending the whole movie trying to figure out where they were. the naked women running through the streets was a little unnecessary, but it must be symbolic of something. i think gary burns had the right idea anyways. it was just a movie of good fun though and i would definitely see it again.
I'm surprised by the lack of enthusiasm that has greeted Gary Burns' fourth feature, A PROBLEM WITH FEAR. Reminiscent of his previous film, WAYDOWNTOWN, FEAR utilizes the insular setting of Calgary's enormous shopping mall and urban life. With an absurdist tone, and hilarious dialogue, Burns examines the culture of fear in which we live. The story is well-constructed, building around Laurie's whose many fears are starting to happen to people around him. FEAR explores similar ground to that which Michael Moore did in BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE, but with a sharp, fantastic story. And once again, as in WAYDOWNTOWN, Burns wraps his story up with a surprisingly touching finale.
Gary Burns likes to be cool. His movies are cool. "waydowntown"
was really cool. "A Problem With Fear" is not cool.
"A Problem With Fear" has a great premise, is well acted and (sometimes) well shot. The problem is it just does not work for 90 mins. It could have if the director gave us more plot and less cool. Instead of giving a little more exposition and back round, Gary Burns decided to populate his movie with lots of subplots and shots of naked women running across the street. I'm sure it all means something...something really cool.
"A Problem With Fear" is set (I think) in the "Not So Distant Future" where one company is trying to cause the stock market to crash by sort of 'V' chipping the city into a "Fear Storm" (this happens by having the most phobic person on the planet send telepathic waves of fear which manifest into real tragedies: escalator deaths, elevator deaths, traffic deaths...) Make sense? No? Well that's okay neither does the movie.
"A Problem With Fear" is just too busy being a satire to really get a grasp on what it's satirizing: Corporate fear mongering for profit (Code Yellow anyone?). If Gary Burns had spent a little more time with plot points and character arcs and a little less time on glib hipster-mall -culture wit he might have made a movie worth thinking about. As it stands now this film is just a wannabe Lynchian fable. Sorry but the naked woman running in slow motion, for no reason, isn't symbolic...it's dumb. I don't know, maybe I'm just not hip enough to get it.
Gary Burns should keep doing what he's doing, eventually he'll make a REALLY COOL Movie. As it stands "A Problem With Fear" should have been a really cool short film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Even if I did want to tell some spoilers about this movie, I can't. And that's because I never managed to finish seeing this movie. I can't really point what's the worst part of it, but I can't point on any moment of the movie where I really understood what is going on, why, and when. The only clear thing in this movie is who's the main characters. I can't say anything bad about their acting, because the actors are good and convincing, but still - the plot is impossible to understand. I'm sure the director had many good ideas in this movie, and I'm sure I missed some (if not all) because of my own stupidity, but when an ordinary movie watcher like me can't even decide if this is a Drama , Thriller, Sci-Fi, or whatsoever, no one can expect a person to like this movie. I wouldn't bother to see it again, and you shouldn't either.
"Rest assured, I was on the Internet in minutes, registering my disgust
throughout the world." -- The Comic Book Guy (The Simpsons)
This is all that could come to mind as I finished this movie. He should have left the beatnick ugly girl for the hot one because she obviously had a thing for him. The entire evil subplot is left unexplained and doesn't make any sense at all. Honestly, I've seen porn with better plots.
The production on this movie looks like it was done by a child. There are lots of BLURRY PANIC ATTACKS to keep you on the edge of your seat. It's like this producer guy just got his new effects program and wants to show everyone this cool blur effect. The soundtrack leaves something to be desired.
And what's with those sideburns, protagonist whose name I can't remember because your character was so thin?
Wow. Haven't seen something this poorly written and conceived for a
How did it get funding from all those participants listed in the credits?
CHUM...Telefilm Canada...Movie Central... They must be embarrassed now.
This was a 5 minute concept dragged out into 100 minutes or so that felt like 3 hours or so. There were some good actors in this film, but there wasn't any good acting. The characters were shallow and boring. The project badly needed an editor who could trim about 30 minutes of non-communicative reactions shots of actors with no emotion (who obviously don't understand or care about the characters they are playing). The whole film felt very amatuerish all round, like super 8 films I used to see in high school. This film was completely lacking in any coherent direction or compelling plot. Any one of the main characters could have died or disappeared at any point in the film and I wouldn't have cared. Their problems were silly and juvenile (as was the script)so there was no chance of having any kind of emotional involvement in their "predicaments". I can't even begin to describe how stupid it was, except to say that it felt like it was conceived, written and directed by a couple of puerile high school students who drink too much beer and think everything is funny. However, if you haven't partaken in the case of beer...and you've matured since then..it all looks very childish.
Avoid this film.
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