Cannes Film Festival 2017 Review: ‘The Clapper’

An attempt at an awkward situational comedy.

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Eddie Crumble casually strolls the streets as he makes his morning walk to work. The fictional, cartoonish background changes quite smoothly, transitioning into pastel-colored depictions of a grand city. Yet, Eddie is not a cartoon. His surroundings look something from a graphic novel, but Eddie himself is out of place. This opening scene gives viewers a glimpse into the mundane life of Eddie Crumble—a life that is filled with a monotonous job, few friends, and a quaint apartment in the heart of Los Angeles. Whilst most people living in Los Angeles seek the fast-paced life found within the film industry, Eddie is perfectly content being anonymous.

The audience watches as Eddie (Ed Helms), a forty something year old man, navigates his life as a ‘clapper.’ Eddie, along with his best friend (Tracy Morgan), are the official audience members of various commercials. He sits in the audience, donning a new costume each day, and claps at the appropriate moments. His routine never falters. Eddie’s life seems like it would get tiring after some time. But, Eddie becomes a ‘somebody’ once a late night talk show host notices Eddie’s appearance in multiple infomercials. The search is on to find the infamous ‘clapper,’ but Eddie does not want to be found. Eddie prefers his lost and found box of a life, tucked away for the world to forget and ignore. Eddie’s attempt to avoid an attention-filled life becomes turbulent, affecting both his personal and professional life. His friends and potential girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried) become intertwined in his quest to remain hidden, to keep private the once unknown name of Eddie Crumble.

The premise of the film seemed interesting, as the film focuses upon the consequences of undesired fame. Eddie does not want to be in the limelight. His shyness wraps himself like a cocoon and this caterpillar is not ready for metamorphosis. The film does not shy away from capitalizing upon its awkwardness, but it does so in an uninteresting manner. Films like Juno and Superbad have catapulted socially awkward humor to the forefront of comedies, but this film falls flat in doing so. The jokes are expected and familiar, leaving the audience embarrassed for those telling them. The timing of the jokes is often ten seconds too late, leaving a train-wreck of misfit jokes to linger around the audience. By the mid-point of the film, the unoriginality of these conversations becomes blatant, like a stain upon a white t-shirt. These stained jokes tarnish the quality of the film’s plot, distracting the audience from Eddie’s life crisis.

However, the film’s humor is not the sole black sheep. The rough editing of a few long scenes left me dazed and confused. Eddie and his girlfriend are on their first date, enjoying a ‘romantic’ meal inside of a fast-food restaurant. Rather than the camera focusing upon one person for a short while, and then cutting to the other person, the camera quickly flips back and forth between the couple. For every line of dialogue, the camera focuses upon that person. So, if the person solely says a few words, the camera is cutting quite closely. These choppy transitions during the conversation were distracting and mind-numbing. I began to focus on the camera angles more than the actual dialogue, which left me further puzzled.

Many of the shots of the film focused on the background noise alongside the forefront dialogue. The shots were incredibly wide, which made me question the validity of the scenes. The Los Angeles highways were irrelevant to conversations, so the looming background became a distraction rather than a scenic background. If the shots were better-angled or closer up, I would have focused more upon the words being said rather than the pedestrians walking through the local gas station. These background interactions proved unrelated to the plot line, so I remain confused as to the purpose of various scenes.

The Clapper’s intentions were pure, but seemed to be misguided in its quest to humor the audience. I was too often distracted by careless edits and rough transitions to listen to Eddie Crumble’s disorienting life crisis. Whilst Ed Helms and Amanda Seyfried performed their roles well, the screenwriting was such that it simply did not matter. It is difficult to turn poorly written material into an entertaining film, regardless of how superb the cast is. I hope that this film is a bump in the road for the main ensemble of the film, for I cannot imagine this film doing well at the box office. I advise saving ten dollars for a film ticket and seeing another film. You’ll thank me later for doing so.

Director: Dito Montiel

Writer: Dito Montiel

Producer: John M. Bennett, Michael Bien, Ray Bouderau, Maurice Fadida

Main Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Leah Remini, Ed Helms

Running Time: 89 minutes

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Review: ‘Dhogs’

A trifling glimpse into humanity’s weakest moments.

Dhogs begins similar to how it ends: blank faces stare intently ahead, dumbfounded by the scene before them. By blank faces, I am not referring to the audience watching Dhogs, but rather to the audience staring back at us. The scene invites us to become spectators during the film, to join those in the theatre backdrop and thoughtlessly watch the events to come. However, the shot quickly transitions to another blank face—that of an aging, saddened taxi driver. The camera is placed before the man, towards the front of the vehicle, so that we are unaware of where this man is going. But, the destination is not as important as his facial expression as he avoids conversation with the middle-aged man he is driving. The camera flips back and forth between the front and rear of the vehicle, focusing on the taxi driver always. The middle-aged man soon exits the vehicle at his destination and the scene ends. While this opening scene appears rather insignificant, the scene glimpses the film’s intersectionality of characters, lack of dialogue, and demoralizing theme.

A rather bleak film, Andrés Goteira’s psychological thriller explores the depths of the human psych. In particular, Goteira sheds light on humankind’s perilous decision-making. These decisions affect the sequence of events to come and are analyzed through a series of unrelated characters and their lives. One character runs into another, this character affects the other’s future plans, and the course of the film is altered. The film focuses on no more than a few characters at a time, and does so by splitting the film into three sections. Each section presents a fresh perspective to the film through the eyes of new characters, but the stories of previous characters continue to develop. By the conclusion of the film, around eight characters have become intertwined in a tale that connects all of them together.

Because the character development is tedious, the film’s plot is often confusing and trying. The film’s intentions are vague and unannounced until the viewer is almost finished with the film. However, the finale truly ties the film’s characters together, telling the viewer how each character affected the life of another. Through the use of stellar tracking shots, the film often follows a character to his or her destination. The middle-aged man that was driven by the taxi driver is followed to a grand hotel; he sits at the bar and meets a beautiful young woman. The two strike a playful conversation and spend more time together later in the evening. After this short rendezvous, the young woman leaves the hotel to return home. But, by staying out later than intended, she runs into someone else on the way home that she would not have before. These interactions are the core of the film and glimpse the raw undertakings some of us hold. Whilst some hold true intentions, others do not—a first impression is not always what it seems.

The film’s adjustment of sound during pivotal scenes proved to be effective, especially during action or adventure sequences. When the aforementioned woman is walking down the street after her hook-up, the camera pans to the young man following her. The sound gradually increases as the audience, and the woman, becomes aware of the woman’s predicament. The sound climaxes as the man catches up to the woman, but immediately cuts out as the screen turns black. Sound fluctuations like this one greatly improved the suspense of the film, often leaving the viewer uncomfortable and suspicious. Yet, where the sound performance was excellent, the timing of the plot was not. There were many a time when the audience scene would be brought back again, leaving a still scene for close to a minute. These repetitious scenes lengthened the film by five to ten minutes, which became exhausting and somewhat of a nuisance. If used more carefully, the film wouldn’t have been so tedious.

It is evident that the producers put lots of thought into the film, for the editing was the best part of the film. Dhogs was one of the more artsy film thrillers I’ve seen in some time, which brought an air of originality to the film. I would recommend that others view the film to pass their own judgments, but I find the film to be a breath of fresh air. Rather than utilizing its time doing jump scares or gory death scenes, the film slowly built a stage of uncertainty—a stage of unknown possibilities and realist situations. A stage that is unfortunately relatable for some, for the situations presented in the film are raw and sensitive. But, without films like these, which presents situations in a shameful light, humankind would be more irrational than it already is.