SAMUEL GOLDWYN FILMS (2018)
Director: Quinn Shephard
Starring: Quinn Shephard, Nadia Alexander, Chris Messina, Tessa Albertson, Sarah Mezzanotte, Luke Slattery, Owen Campbell
At the age of twenty-two, I was working within an I.T. department and my main talent was seeing how many Cadbury Creme Eggs I could fit into my mouth at once. At the same age, Quinn Shephard has written, produced, directed and starred in her own (partly self-financed) movie, Blame. Clearly, she hasn’t quite reached the heights of a messy chocolate-filled mouth, but she still has time.
She may disagree, mind.
Teen outcast Abigail (Shephard) has returned to high school after a period of time away struggling with mental issues. Her sympathetic classmates refer to her as “Sybil” (no idea why), “psycho” (nope, still don’t know), “slut” (well, that’s what the kids say) and make allusions to her apparent crazy behaviour. The ringleader of the torment is uber-bitch Melissa (Alexander), all scowls and red dip-dyed hair along with her able assistant, Sophie (Mezzanotte). When brooding substitute drama teacher, Jeremy (Messina), arrives to cover the class, Abigail is immediately hooked by his affability and interest in the upcoming school play, The Crucible. Pitted against one another, Abigail trumps Melissa for the lead role of…Abigail – the tortured protagonist – and Jeremy himself takes the lead male role opposite her. As the pair strike up a close friendship, jealous Melissa begins to devise a way to ruin the both of them whilst simultaneously affecting and disturbing the lives (and relationships) of her clique, Sophie, well-meaning Ellie (Albertson), jock Eric (Slattery) and goofball TJ (Campbell).
Blame is another movie set within the harsh confines of the teen/high school years (when everything was an utter drama) and contains characters that fit well within the stereotypes we’ve seen many times previously – the weird one, the bitchy one, the pretty blonde, the nice one, the jock one, the douchey one. There’s nothing particularly new to be found here, and it certainly isn’t the worst movie I’ve seen in a while. There are plenty of flaws throughout though which are sadly evident.
The movie presents itself as an almost modern-day version of The Crucible in a subtle/loose way whilst also dealing with the awkward process of coming-of-age sexually. The writing is pretty good, the teacher-student relationship never devolves into anything overly-weird or creepy but a lot of the lines feel like stock teen offerings, as does Jeremy’s relationship with his actual girlfriend – the movie was apparently written whilst Shephard was a teen, which may explain this. Threads come and go during the movie, however. We know Abigail is supposedly crazy, but we never receive any evidence other than teen jibes, her nickname is just…there and the movie seems to forget she’s crazy about halfway through and never revisits the main character trait. Yes, there are a lot of clichés scattered throughout (mousy weirdo transforms into temptress, the final reveal...) but to be fair, the majority of high school-based movies are dripping in them anyway. Performances are also decent all-round, there’s no real standouts as everyone is just as OK as each other, though by the movies end, Nadia Alexander’s character is essentially the ‘Abigail’ of the movie.
Blame looks good, that’s for sure. There’s plenty of good shots here and some good technical work on show. The soundtrack is also decent, out are the generic pulsing electro beats many smaller movies tend to gravitate to. Instead, some indie/alternative cuts are thrown in and a smattering of emphatic classical music also.
All things considered, Blame is an impressive piece of work for a debut – directing, writing, producing, starring… - but it lacks a spark to really be an engaging movie. There’s no real electricity in the teacher-student combo, the main beats feel telegraphed and it all feels a bit…samey? It’s just pretty good.
It’s also a hell of a lot better than this guy could do.
Can’t high schoolers just all get along?
January 9th 2018