If you follow the Jason Michael Brescia film school trilogy (2007's Karaoke Night, 2008's Ridiculously Emo, and 2009's Wet Cigarettes... all available for viewing on myspace, though the latter two are available here on IMDb), you will recognize a lot of the same faces, see a lot of the same themes, and watch as the storyteller grew and became more ambitious. If Wet Cigarettes has one major flaw, it is that Brescia was too ambitious.
After two gimmicky shorts, the filmmaker chose to take on a less gimmicky subject matter for his (seemingly) final student short. On the surface Wet Cigarettes deals with erectile dysfunction and college parties. Unlike Karaoke Night and Ridiculously Emo, underneath the surface there is a lot more going on in Wet Cigarettes. The film strategically opens up with an infomercial for what seems to be a viagra like pill for young men, we then see our protagonist watching that same infomercial, and his best friend trying to convince him to use the product. From the first time we meet him, the protagonist is being marketed to.
We then meet Jenny, the protagonists girlfriend, who on the surface is your artsy-girl, the antithesis of the protagonists lifestyle, but as time goes by she too is somewhat exposed as being just as contrived from marketing as the protagonists friends. Only while they're using "frat boy" products, she is sitting around in an art clad room, listening to homosexuals play the acoustic guitar, while smoking hookah. Essentially she is living the same lifestyle as ever other scenester out there.
And our protagonist is caught right in the middle of it. His best friend loves to party, so does our protagonist. His girlfriend loves this artsy lifestyle, he loves his girlfriend.
At that point, from a story structural standpoint Brescia has us. To be completely honest, and having spoken few words to the director in my life, from a script standpoint, Brescia is on the cusp of comedy genius for a 21 year old by the mid point of the film. But then it begins to fall apart.
Instead of continuing the story and finding a way for the protagonist to grow, the protagonist sinks into doing exactly what he was doing earlier on... listening to what everyone else tells him to do. First he listens to his best friend and breaks up with his girlfriend. Then he listens to his other friend and gets back with her. Then he listens to his girlfriend.
Brescia sets his protagonist up, but doesn't send him home. The gags at the end are all great, and the character Chess? is easily the most entertaining character in this trilogy of films, but at the end of the day you can't help but feel a little robbed, or at least a little disappointed.
That's all nitpicking though. You can't criticize a 21 year old for not creating the perfect story. It's why it was a student short film and not a studio film. If anything, Wet Cigarettes certainly proved that Brescia wasn't too far away from being ready for the "real thing" though, and considering the film uses perhaps the most untalented cast he's ever dealt with, the fact that the film comes out this unique and complex is a victory of sorts for the young filmmaker.
If Brescia were to go on to greatness, or even to a decent professional career, this is the sort of film that will be looked back on and adored. It will have great replay value in the future. That is probably the best thing the film has going for it. It's also the type of film you can watch multiple times and pick up new things, the sort of things that let you know the young filmmaker is TRYING... and more importantly THINKING... and maybe even... dare I say it... FEELING.
Overall, the film is an 8 out of 10, just like it's predecessor Ridiculously Emo. Does it mean Brescia didn't grow at all from one film to the next? No. It just means that for what the filmmaker sought out to do, he go it about 80% right.
But oh if he got the other 20%!!!!!!
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