Monday, January 31, 2011

Stiff (2010)

Directed by Mike McKown, Jim Towns
Starring Bill Scott, Lulu Benton

"You don't see any point to life. You don't see any difference in the world with you in it, and the world without you in it. And the truth is, there isn't."

Troy (Bill Scott) is a depressed, workaday schmo whose entire life has been a never-ending series of suck; he's poor, lonely and awkward - and doesn't see that status changing anytime soon.

Lorri (Lulu Benton) is a crisis counselor with a dark secret. She works as a crisis counselor not for the passion of helping those in need, but to find herself a willing participant to her necrophiliac desires.

When Troy and Lorri's paths cross by sheer coincidence, their lives are forever changed, and the lines between life, love, and death become blurred.

It all begins with Troy, once again arriving home from his soul-sucking office job. As he enters, he glances the handmade noose that he has prepared for himself when he finally gets the nerve to end his miserable existence.

Really only wanting a reason to continue living for one more day, Troy calls his local (and oft utilized) suicide hotline. Fortuitously, Lorri answers and immediately recognizes his voice. They have a connection, she tells him, as she sits with her feet up playing solitaire on the computer and feeding him scripted lines from the counselor handbook with dry sarcasm in her voice.

Once Lorri feels comfortable that Troy isn't going to off himself - at least not for the time being - she gives him her personal number so he can call her whenever he needs further assistance and bids him a fond adieu for the evening.

The next day, as Troy is waiting for his train that will once again bring him to his horrible job, he senses an overwhelming urge to throw himself on the tracks, so he decides to skip work and contemplate his fate on a bridge. As he looks down into the rushing water below, he decides to give Lorri a call.

Receiving Troy's incoming call, Lori sees a perfect opportunity to make her morbid fantasies a reality. She invites herself over to Troy's house to council him in person, and Troy, being quite shy yet longing for companionship, reluctantly accepts.

Once there, Lorri begins an endeavor to convince Troy that, in fact, life is a waste of time and that suicide really is the best way out. Troy, when faced with the opportunity to end his pain at the hands of Lorri - whose seemingly caring personality has now changed to that of a cold and calculating death counselor - backs out at the last second. Realizing that Troy may just need a little extra push, Lorri decides that it would be best if he moves in with her. Troy, being easily led, packs up and moves in with her that very day.

On their first night together, Lorri enjoys a wee too much red wine and shares a dark little tale of her first boyfriends death at age 11. Since the time she lost her first love, she hasn't been able to love another person; at least not a living one. Lorri proposes that she will help Troy to end his life - if she can enjoy his body after he has passed.

Before Troy's impending death, Lorri asks Troy what 5 things in life make him happy; and they then partake on a journey to complete said tasks. As the two spend more time together, Troy's growing feelings for Lorri begin to weaken the bond of their arrangement.

Will they go through with their apparent perfect scheme or will their relationship with each other change Lorri and Troy's view on life - and their longing for the afterlife - forever? It's a pretty improbable and thinly constructed premise, but somehow it works here. The conversations are not wholly original, but entirely captivating nonetheless. The acting isn't top notch, but its effective. Everything about this movie should spell disaster, but as I have said prior, it somehow works.

If you enjoy off-kilter, dialogue based, micro budget cinema, I would say to definitely check this out. Stiff is an awkwardly funny, philosophically and existentially heavy, sad and sentimental, yet highly engaging indie film with a really nice classical guitar score.

You can check out more information on Stiff at the Cinema Epoch website.

(Note: The music in the movie itself is not as intrusive as it is in the trailer.)

- Jeremy Vaca

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