Review: The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed

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Title: The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed
MPA Rating: NR
Director: Joanna Arnow
Starring: Joanna Arnow, Babak Tafti, Scott Cohen
Runtime: 1 hr 27 mins

What It Is: Ann (Arnow) is a woman in her 30s. Her daily life consists of her frustratingly monotonous job where she’s constantly reminded of how doing her job will eventually make the position obscure, her social life with her friends, and her sex life involving multiple ‘masters’ in which she explores subdom. She floats from person to person, experimenting with different methods of pleasure, at least for the masters, when she strikes up a new situationship with Chris (Tatfi), a film-lover who may challenge her idea of sex and connection.

What We Think: There are a lot of films concerning internal turmoil and individualistic-driven rebellions out there. The need or in the least curiosity for change and frustration with having to exist as an adult person motivates a huge majority of conflicts, one could say. Some great examples of film in which the fight for the ego and the importance of the individual in the face of suburban decay and systematic oppression include Taxi Driver, Fight Club, and American Beauty. Those films I just named were all released before the year 2000, and solely focused on male desires and insecurities: that being said, while the feminine ‘ego’ films are more common and accepted in our contemporary landscape, its far more uncommon to see. But, across, the board, the conflicts in these films (which in my film-loving experience, are often very good and very interesting, and lead to fantastic character studies and heavy performances) are often overwrought and lead to violence and overall the disruption of a society, community, and environment. This indie deadpan comedy is a film about ego, but, interestingly, flipped on its head, where much of how everyone acts is surface level, or, just enough, and that’s fine.

There are no large overarching conflicts, no challenges, little to no ‘fight’ for individuality. It’s funny, yes, but oftentimes in a starkly literal or dry sense. It’s not funny to hear a woman being told to do absurd things by a ‘master’ type for the sake of his pleasure, but it is funny when in the middle of a blowjob, he has to sneeze. It’s a bit of a strange tactic that I realized had yet to be excavated. It reminds of the dry, quick, somewhat cynical or snarky indie comedies of the 2000s (e.g. mumblecore films), but has a far more complacent edge to it. With a fantastic director as the lead at the forefront, Joanna Arnow lends an odd look into a sort of intimacy with vulnerability stripped away, if it was ever there to begin with. Ann is a woman who appears to just always be fine with where she is, and when she looks somewhere to get or try something new, she gets it immediately, although there is also the contrast of having to be complacent at a workplace where very little makes sense, but it goes on anyway, monotonously. But instead of blowing up her office space or getting some sort of vengeance on any of her masters for failing to pleasure her sexually, she just keeps moving along. It’s like an anti-drama, which is something pretty new to me, but still rung as secretly angry and angsty to me as I was watching it, which made me realize this film became a Rorschach test and instead of being confrontational through conflict, is confrontational by not really having it. When faced with something where there aren’t really any surprises and you feel like everything has been done before, where do you go from there?

And… that’s the movie, in all its minimalism. Dirty phone screens, small music performances for friends, simple observations and conversations, casual and frequent nudity, and repetitive meals that look like cat food, is all comfortably normal for Ann. The stripped-back ego can be off-putting, but still proves that you don’t have to fight for individuality to be one. It explores how relationships can be built or maintained without film tropes, but rather real-life tropes. Common conversations and questions are what the dialogue is, and when in the discussion about sex, it’s just simply “what do you like, what do you want, can I ___?”

Our Grade: B, A well-directed deadpan comedy, playing moment-by-moment as a woman explores herself and others at her own pace, serves as a strangely existential mirror to ourselves. I don’t have any real big criticisms, though predictably with a film like this, people will have many. It’s very dry, it feels slow although the pacing is pretty tight, the dialogue is sort of forgettable and awkward, and the cinematography is flat, but the execution of attributes all have parts to play in the life of the film nonetheless, and the movie wouldn’t be the same or as good without them. It all seems to lead to one particular moment later on in the duration in which the characters quietly and briefly break into sudden naturalism and improvisation that anywhere else, in film or in real life, could be washed away in its smallness and normalcy, but is consciously so important and colored in contrast to the rest of the movie, that the crux of the film itself can be made clear. It’s a rare movie where it plays everything off so cleanly and simply, but the longer I look, think, and feel about it, somehow there are more and more layers revealed behind it and myself and my world as the viewer. If you’re looking for a film that you’re willing to put your attention span into and want to explore the same dramatic themes we love but in an entirely different fashion, definitely dig into this curious indie.

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