Thursday, July 25, 2019

Fantasia ’19: The Incredible Shrinking WKND

In most time-loop movies, the looper gets to start fresh with each reset, but Alba will carry her cuts and stains with her. Fortunately, she is in okay health, despite drinking like a fish, unlike the easily winded Bill Murray. However, her relationship with Pablo is in a sad state. Alba must heal their bond to get back to forward-moving regular life, but she is running out of time and chances in screenwriter-director Jon Mikel Caballero’s The Incredible Shrinking WKND, which had its North American premiere at the 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival.

Lately, Alba has exhibited behavior typically observed in aging frat boys with Peter Pan syndrome. For Pablo, it just isn’t cute anymore. Yet, it is really her insensitivity to his needs that finally prompts him to break-up with her. This catches her completely off guard, largely spoiling the weekend trip to her childhood vacation cabin she had planned with their friends. Suddenly in a ruminative mood, she wanders past the mysterious old abandoned weapons factory that is presumably the cause of the time-loop she finds herself in.

Of course, Alba is utterly baffled by the situation. She then responds by preemptively dumping Pablo. However, as she resolves to prevent the breakup and heal their relationship (presuming that will break her out of the repeating cycle), Alba figures out each loop lasts exactly one hour less than the one before. Tick-tock.

The glut of time-loop movies could give a science fiction fan Groundhog’s Day Deja vu, but Caballero makes it fresh again, starting with the gender reversal of his hard-partying, irresponsible protagonist. He dexterously reveals more and more revelations regarding Alba’s relationships with Pablo and their friends in each loop, springing new complications that make each successive go-round even trickier for her to navigate. It really is quite a clever script and he stage-manages all of Alba’s rushing about quite effectively.

Iria del Rio is compulsively watchable as Alba, going all in, in a hot mess kind of way. Viewers will get annoyed with her, but remain sympathetic to her predicament. In fact, she shows tremendous range, showing a flair for almost farcical comedy, but also dialing it down for a few surprisingly poignant moments. Frankly, Adam Quintero is mostly underwhelming as Pablo, but Jimmy Castro and Adrian Exposito definitely stir up the pot as two of their noisy, discontented friends.

“Clever” really is the right word to describe WKND, because in addition to all the new twists and tweaks Caballero gives the time loop movie, it also engages in some wickedly droll visual gamesmanship that will sneak up on you if you are not alerted to it beforehand. Probably the best loop movie since the Korean film, A Day (granted, that was just from 2017, but there have been a lot of them since then), The Incredible Shrinking WKND is highly recommended for time-themed science fiction fans, after its North American debut at this year’s Fantasia.