Monday 19 April 2021

Less than promising: "I Blame Society"

I Blame Society is an odd one, and I suspect it's only creeping out in the UK now in a bid to piggyback on whatever success Promising Young Woman is set for at a moment when cinemas aren't open, very few people have access to Sky Cinema, and we've all got more pressing things to concern ourselves with than movie awards. It's the Tesco Value PYW, essentially: having spent the decade since Bridesmaids doing messy women to death, the entertainment industry is apparently now going to do much the same with murderous women. Coming at us from the fringes of L.A.'s indie scene, co-writer/director Gillian Wallace Horvat stars as a version of herself, in much the same way Larry David stars in Curb Your Enthusiasm as a version of himself. This GWH is a struggling filmmaker whose coping mechanism for the daily rounds of film-biz rejections is to push on with a self-generated project in which she takes a compliment offered to her by close friends - namely that she'd make "a really good murderer" - and then imagines how she'd go about making her first kill. It's a notionally subversive idea - exposing us to a woman's deepest, darkest thoughts, and then seeing the woman in question acting on them - yet what we're exposed to first of all is a lot of wearying, self-involved cineaste twitter, and extended, non-comedic, non-dramatic sequences in which Wallace Horvat, in disguise, talks to camera while eyeing up potential victims.

At its most trying, I Blame Society displays much the same smug aimlessness as lesser mumblecore; every now and again, there are echoes of David Holzman's Diary and Man Bites Dog, those hall-of-fame curios about male sociopaths with movie cameras, although the target of any intended satire remains unclear. (It seems unlikely to be the protagonist, given that she's also the writer-director and the one holding the camera.) The big joke - and it takes almost half the running time to get there - is that "Gillian" becomes an accidental murderer, then realises killing may be a more satisfying form of self-expression than independent filmmaking. Even then, though, I Blame Society remains squirmy and awkward rather than especially funny: pursuing the comedy of embarrassment apparently means never having to write anything so elevating as actual gags. (I blame Ricky Gervais.) It has one half-funny line towards the death: a glib movie executive's dismissal of this filmed killing spree as "a weird Frances Ha". (That's half-funny, because it's half-true, not that it spares the poor guy.) And if you're after an indie shot through with the personality of its creative prime mover, it's certainly that. It's just that this is a personality you may well start to back ever so slowly away from over the course of a very long-seeming 85 minutes.

I Blame Society is now available to rent via Prime Video.

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