Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Brightwood: Profoundly Lost and Hungover

Jen and her disappointing husband Dan are about to get sucked into some kind of time loop, or something, with the worst possible people: each other. Unfortunately, the viewers have to go through the looping with both of them. Their marriage is on the rocks and it is easy to understand why. The real question is how they got together in the first place. Of course, the more pressing issues are what is happening to them and how do they get out of it in director-screenwriter Dane Elcar’s Brightwood, which releases today on VOD.

Dan made a drunken spectacle of himself at a work party in Jen’s honor the night before, so now she is being not-so-passive aggressive about it. Technically, it was her idea to jog around the nearby large pond or small lake. The thing is they just cannot get around it. Instead, they keep coming back to the same “no swimming” sign. The vibe is very weird, especially when they hear a high-pitched headache inducing tone. Then they notice a mysterious hooded figure.

Elcar (the son of Dana Elcar, the first Sheriff Patterson on
Dark Shadows) cleverly directs the traffic for a number of near-misses and weird encounters that we later see from different perspectives and angles. Yet, they never build to a suitably trippy revelation. Instead, we’re stuck going through all the loops with two of the lost annoying movie characters of the year.

For what its worth, Dana Berger and Max Woertendyke are both convincingly toxic, both to each other and to anyone listening to Jen and Dan. Much of Elcar’s dialogue often has a sharp edge archly reflecting the kind of dysfunctional relationship, in which both partners know exactly what to say to draw blood—and have the willingness to do so. The problem is the absence of a third act for them to build towards.

Despite the small cast, a lot of planning had to go into each of Elcar’s shots. If you have not seen a lot of films like
Inoperable or Timecrimes (which the press materials make direct comparisons to) than you will be impressed by Brightwood, but if you have, it suffers in comparison. Just not successful enough to recommend, Brightwood releases today (8/22) on-demand.