WRITER’S CRAMP (a.k.a. Breakdowns) * USA 2015 Dir: Darva Campbell. 105 mins
With regular, pace-killing slow fade transitions where you would normally find commercials and lines of dialogue delivered with an apparent pause for canned laughter, this drawing room murder-mystery farce plays out like a particularly duff local theatre company staged a bad sitcom for your Friday night (lack of) enjoyment. For fans of strained “comic” misunderstandings, rubbish English accents, “quirky” characters, silly moustaches and face pulling, it might be a good night in. Amy (Christy Crowley) and Scooter (Raphael Barker) are rubbish would-be screenwriters, relying on parental loans to keep financially afloat and desperately trying to come up with a lucrative script to save their condo. Their agent has lost faith (“Your screenplays aren’t even readable”) and, while trying to figure out the perfect murder, they brainstorm ideas that are brought to life onscreen. Wacky costumes, mimes, Yiddish gangster twins, fairy-tales, a post-apocalyptic dinosaur resurrection, therapy sessions with Humpty Dumpty, a FRANKENSTEIN-inspired creation scene and even a machete wielding Santa (“We were aiming for the teenage market!”) are among the vignettes in an episodic narrative. “Just because people don’t understand you, doesn’t make you an artist”. Mannered performances and self-consciously offbeat supporting characters (yes, there is a “comedy” psychic) make this something of a chore to sit through – rendered even worse by prominence of the couple’s grating, tech-savvy kids, who spy on them with drones while hatching their own plot. Humorous music tells us when we should be laughing. It’s hard to imagine what audience they had in mind – it’s billed as a family film, but you’d have to really hate your next of kin to subject them to this.
Review by Steven West