Wednesday, April 27, 2016
All This Panic (2016) Tribeca 2016 or the review that almost made me walk away from film writing forever
It shook me so much that I considered walking away from Unseen Films completely. I ended up taking several days away from the site and only reluctantly come back after I got some positive feed back about other reviews I've done. I put the draft review of this film aside and considered not reviewing it.
Then a week or so after coming back I took a look at the review and realized that what I wrote is how I feel. In the intervening time I had tried to rewrite the piece but found that I was couching my words too much. Worse I wasn't saying what I felt had to be said. I went back and looked at the original review and found the reason I said what I did was not out of trying to hurt but because I am so incredibly frustrated that the film isn't the film it should be. Yes I am snarky at times but I can't find the words without taking the tone. (I should also point out that the review was written over a hard pressed 24 hour period during which time I talked about nothing else, and did little else including taking time from my day job to write copious notes about what to say and how to say it. This film has haunted me in one form or another since I saw it- I really do feel that the material here could be one of the best films of the year if someone else tweaked it)
Additionally it should be noted that my attitude is the result of a large percentage of films at this years festival having the same problem, namely not getting everything we need to know on the screen. Too many filmmakers this year in trying to assume their audience is intelligent enough to follow what is going on have made the assumption that we know as much about their subjects as they do, which isn't hasn't been the case. Of the first 8 films I saw at Tribeca only 1, the 8th one didn't mess things up. ALL THIS PANIC was the 7th and the worst offender- if only because it's potentially the best of the bunch and it gets it the most wrong.
What follows is more or less the review that I wrote over a month ago. It's the one that version of got me into trouble with someone connected to the film.
In answer to the question of is this how I feel about the film right now? I really don't know. This review has cost me way too much psychically and emotionally that I really don't know. Its how I felt in the 24 hours after I saw the film, which is all I can say about the film. It is the only review I can give the film now because my thoughts about the film are too mixed up with the bullshit away from it.
Lastly I want to say that I seriously considered re-seeing the film and then re-reviewing it, but I couldn't justify it. The reason I can't is that I won't see the film with fresh eyes. I know what happens which will influence things, additionally I've read the press notes which reveal a great deal more than is in the film and put the time frame into perspective- the lack of the clear passage of time is a big problem with the film.
So here at last is the review that broke me
Incredibly messy and unfocused film that's akin to watching someone's home movies edited by blender, ALL THIS PANIC follows the lives of seven young women as they finish high school and take differing paths into the real world.
To be honest this could have and should have been one of the best coming of age docs ever made. We are there with the girls as they talk frankly about school, drugs, drink, sex and life. Its kind f all there except for the fact that the film is so badly edited that I threw up my hands, literally, and grunted at the screen.
The problem with the film comes from two places. First the film is following seven girls. Its way too many. In a film running 80 minutes that gives us at best ten minutes with each girl, but that's not the case since the film really focuses on brainy Lena and her friend Ginger as they finish high shool and one goes to college and the other tries to act. Most of the other girls get the short end of the stick to the point that they just sort of pop in to show they are still around.
The other problem is the film is incredibly unfocused. The film covers three years but we have no sense of time or place because there is no effort to tell us when anything is happening. Yes we can watch the seasons change and hair styles come and go but in reality I had no idea when any of it was happening.
Worse still the lives of the girls don't arc so much as stop and start. Its as if the film crew dropped in on random days of the year and just shot whatever was happening. I can hear them going "Fuck it I got nothing to do today I'll go see what Ginger is doing." Almost nothing connects to anything else except by the fact that its part of these girls lives. Its a major shame since its clear the girls trust the filmmakers enough to open up- but they don't do anything with it.
I think that the filmmaker's claim that the film is a kind of cinematic portraiture is bullshit. One doesn't make a portrait of some one of random times over three years- one makes portraiture over three years unless one doesn't have enough material.
Had the filmmakers dropped some of the girls and really focused on say Lena and Ginger this film might have been sooo much better. Actually any of the girls would have been great- not all of them.
I have to say that I'm amused that the parents in the film were shocked that they couldn't allow their high school kids to drink and get stoned at unsupervised parties without child protective serves coming to call. Aren't they aware that its against the law? Actually I'm curious if the film can be used as evidence against them for misdeeds.
In the films favor the film gets better as it goes on and gets more focused, but to be honest by that time the damage is done.
I freely admit that I maybe the wrong audience for the film but at the same time I doubt that unless you're a teenager this film is not going to thrill you.