By now, I have firmly established that when a film directed by Jeremiah Kipp crosses my desk, I ought to pay mighty close attention.
This is true with Kipp's latest short film Fizzle, an unusual beast of a film that succeeds precisely because Kipp never quite pushes it to be completely what we expect it to be.
Fizzle is a comedy. Okay, well sort of. Fizzle is sort of a comedy, though it never attains anything resembling laugh out loud moments.
There are no hearty guffaws to be found.
I don't remember any chortles. I can't think of any giggles.
There was no slapstick to be found anywhere.
Yet, I swear to you. I really swear to you that Fizzle is, in fact, a comedy.
In fact, Fizzle is the best kind of comedy because its laughs are genuine and true and borne out of real life in all its weirdest and quirkiest and darkest moments when we so often become defined by our obsessions and controlled by our stuckness in this thing we call the human condition.
We can't get out of our way long enough to escape the aloneness.
So, we laugh.
So that we won't cry.
And yes, it's funny.
The scenario in this 30-minute short finds us at some high-falutin' party. It's a high-end affair, a celebration really, though that's often hard to tell because no one's really celebrating.
There's The Woman Who Feels Pinned (Caitlin O'Connell), seemingly the hostess though we're never completely sure if that's real or her own self-expectations.
There's The Man Who Bores (Peter Friedman). Bore he does. Everywhere he goes. Everyone he encounters. Including himself.
Ingrid Saxon is The Woman Who Yearns Twice who, like most everyone else here, won't so much tell you she is as much as she'll tell you what she's controlled by.
Geoffrey Owens dazzles as The Man Who Sneezes. Owens possesses such marvelous instincts for natural comedy that you can't help but capture both the heart and the humor in his performance.
The same is true for Jennifer Plotzke as Woman Who Watches.
I'll confess to having been particularly taken by the comic subtleties of Marisa Brau-Reyes as Simply the Maid.
You can call her Simply.
No, really. Call her Simply.
Rounding out the mighty fine ensemble cast is Steve Coats as Man Who Plays Piano and James Strouse as Man Who Wasn't Invited, though strangely enough the latter seems to fit in rather perfectly.
Fizzle is adapted from the stage by Gilbert Girion. Girion's dialogue here is nothing short of magnificent. Every word matters. This is the kind of film where you set aside any fidget toys or doodling post-its and give your full-on attention to everything that's going on. It's a tricky script, magnificent in both its human insights and chill to the bones humor.
I couldn't decide if Fizzle is funny because it's true or if it's true because it's funny. I'm not sure this even makes sense. Yet, sure it does. It makes sense.
Taylor Gentry's lensing is exceptional throughout. In fact, I'd dare call it a character unto itself. At times, you can't help but feel the camera winkin' at ya. It's pretty clear that Gentry and Kipp were on the same wavelength here and the end result is humanity at it's most uncomfortably funniest.
At times, Fizzle looks and feels like an old timey carnival sideshow. You know the kind? It's the kind where the mirrors are skewed and the freaks and the geeks make us all feel a little bit more normal. In this case, however, we can't really feel normal because we are the freaks and the geeks.
The mirror is us.
Daniel Madoff's editing work here is precise and sublime. Kudos, as well, to Kat VanCleave for a production design that I can't stop thinking about.
Fizzle continues the practically undeniable truth that Jeremiah Kipp remains one of the best indie directors working these days. He takes Fizzle places you wouldn't quite expect precisely because he trusts Girion's words and absolutely trusts his stellar ensemble cast.
The end result? Sizzle.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic