"Futile Attraction": Nothing Futile About This Kiwi Comedy

July 28, 2008

Deftly putting the “mock” in mockumentary in enough ways to make a mad punner happy, “Futile Attraction” peels back Reality TV’s implicit structural flaw and exposes it to withering satire.

Director/co-writer Mark Prebble hits on a clever way to simultaneously propel the narrative “story” of the people making the documentary and their subjects while also taking apart, po-mo style, reality dating shows on a meta-level.

He presents – in quotation marks, as “Futile Attraction” is a film about making a film – the unedited footage of a documentary on dating whose subjects are an endearingly dorky phone-obsessed mama’s boy, Randall (Rutherford) and a sweet, rose-glassed, head-in-the-clouds environmental activist (Mason). Captured on film is not only the burgeoning (or is that bludgeoning?) relationship between two hopelessly, comically incompatible people, but the goofs, farguments, and other stuff that would normally not be seen in a finished product thanks to bit of snipping and cutting.

Hence, behind-the-scenes hilarity ensues in front of the scene as the exasperated director, Anne (Tuaine), tries to maintain a semblance of objectivity while straddled with an inept sound key – who also happens to be the daughter of the film’s micro-managing producer – and the blustering ego of host Dudley Earnsworth (Browning, with a riotous performance that evokes Robin Leach channeling William Shatner).

How It Came Together

According to IMDB, Mark Prebble assembled the film courtesy of donations collected via the Internet; a notable accomplishment. Even better is the inventiveness to take a low budget and make it play into the overall film-of-a-film presentation. The cinematography is plain, although that works with the film’s schtick, but the performances are anything but, the film’s score is surprisingly robust, and the writing – sometimes silly, sometimes dry, but always quirky – yields gems ranging from Randall’s “telephilia” to tasty little morsels like the film’s choice of replacement for “Jesus. H. Christ” as an expletive.

Wisely, the observer effect is only the cerebral cherry atop the comedy sundae. “Futile Attraction” foregoes grand soapbox statements on how reality television isn’t so much real reality but mediated reality, edited reality, manipulated reality – in other words, not all that real – in favour of letting viewers draw whatever deep thoughts they are inclined to. Parody is the point, and “Futile Attraction” cheerfully upends conventions associated with the reality genre and the entertainment business. And while it might be generous to ascribe overly lofty media analyses to a humble comedy, at least the quantity of guffaws to be had from said comedy is, in itself, generous.

*Entertainment Value:* ** (out of two) *Technical Quality:* ** (out of two)

Echelon Studios presents a film directed by Mark Prebble.

Written by Mark Prebble and Benedict Reid.

Starring Alistair Browning, Danielle Mason, Peter Rutherford, Glenda Tuaine and Michelle Ang.

80 minutes.

Visit www.echelonstudios.us for distribution and screening information.

Frederik Sisa, The Front Page Online