DIM THE FLUORESCENTS
Director: Daniel Warth
Screenwriter: Daniel Warth, Miles Barstead
Cast: Claire Armstrong, Naomi Skwarna, Andreana Callegarini-Gradzik, Brendan Hobin, Clare McConnell, Todd Graham
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 1/10/18
Opens: January 12, 2018
They say that some 90% of actors are unemployed at any given moment, but you can imagine their motivation when they willingly go into a field of few opportunities because there’s always a chance to win the thespian lottery. Maybe you’ll even get to go to Broadway, or at least work summer theater, but there an excitement to having a live crowd leaning in to hear your words, just as the audience members themselves can feel pleasure in a live performance that they cannot often get from movies.
In Daniel Warth’s freshman feature-length movie, Lillian (Naomi Skwarna) and Audrey (Clare Armstrong) are hopefuls, living as best friends and roommates in Toronto. They are aware that their talents may be unrecognized for a long time, perhaps forever, but they have hope largely since Lillian is a playwright and Audrey is an actress. They can play off each other, rehearsing scenes that one writes for the other. Audrey go auditions while realizing the competition is fierce, and for her part, Lillian strives to sell her scripts without much success.
But they are luckier than some, hired to do corporate skits for employees, a captive audience ordered by the boss to watch. Harassment in the workplace is one theme; dealing with griping customers is another. In fact one of the highlights of this production occurs early on as a stressed executive payed by Armstrong phones customer support, giving Skwarna’s Lillian hell as though the product defect is her fault. After listening for what seems an eternity, Lillian is able to solve Audrey’s problem on the phone to such an extent that you’d expect Audrey to take the customer service person to dinner.
The climactic part of this overlong movie takes place when the two women are hired to write and direct a script warning of alcoholism. They are ordered straight out not to make the mini-play too melodramatic or to use glass which may break and cause an insurance problem. Of course they ignore the boss’s order. They lash out at each other as though they were brawling roommates after hours (which they are), yet through their tears they find a resolution to their conflicts.
Some of the scenes could be cut as there’s no reason to drag out this particular plot—which could have set up the conflict between the two women early on and lead right into the cathartic conclusion. Otherwise, Skwarna and Armstrong are such a team, not only because they takes on roles of complementary professionals, but because they have so much chemistry together that you have to wonder why either of them would want to bother with men.
Unrated. 128 minutes. © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – C+
Acting – B
Technical – B
Overall – B-