Writer-director Brian McGuire’s latest low-budget indie comedy, Sick Of It All, which received its world premiere at this year’s Raindance Festival, recounts a day in the life of Anthony Prince (Logan Sparks), a harassed cold-caller and vintage toy collector who is tasked with organising a dinner party by his jaded wife Rose (Amy Claire) but instead becomes side-tracked by his idiot brother’s plot to kidnap his own son LP (Zion McGuire).
McGuire has described his new production as “a film noir style [sic] comedy about a loveless relationship, strangely based on the French children's book, The Little Prince.” There are at least two problems with this statement.
Firstly, Sick Of It All has no meaningful ties to film noir. Sure, it’s set in L.A., shot in black-and-white, boasts a period title font and two of the characters wear fedoras, but there’s no discernible reason for any of this beyond shallow affectation. McGuire’s protagonist may be a life insurance salesman like Walter Neff from Double Indemnity (1944) and the plot may busy itself with a missing person, but the filmmaker otherwise reveals little to no interest in the pulp underworld of private eyes, femme fatales and smoking .45s. Whereas films like Play It Again, Sam (1972), Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982) and Aki Kaurismäki’s Hamlet Goes Business (1987) all brilliantly sent up Hollywood’s post-war crime canon and mined its tropes for comedic effect, McGuire comprehensively fails to justify his appropriation of the motif. A few offbeat camera angles and some self-consciously quirky framing do not a Robert Siodmak make and McGuire has no such ambition. Here, noir is just an off-the-peg aesthetic, ready to wear, a frankly lazy attempt to buy-in some style. See HBO’s Bored To Death (2009-11) for a successful contemporary spin on noir pastiche.
So if Sick Of It All fails in its stated aims, what can be said for it? Not a great deal, I’m sorry to report. What remains is unappealingly sour, unoriginal and poorly executed. The jokes, such as they are - something about a man named Barbara, burnt pumpkins and a pan of fried eggs splashed with urine - mostly fall flat. The action is almost entirely confined to Anthony Prince’s suburban bungalow, which makes for a dull and airless setting. Sparks, who also produced and resembles a Charles Burns drawing of Michael Shannon, might have made for an engrossing lead if his angry, wayward, ineffectual Prince weren’t so unpleasant, never more so than when ranting about his wife to his own reflection in a steamy bathroom mirror. Several of McGuire’s supporting characters meanwhile feel rehashed from elsewhere – two pantomime cops recall Seth Rogen and Bill Hader in Superbad (2007) while a New Age bullshit artist with eyes for Rose reminded me distinctly of Tim Robbins’ memorably awful hippy homewrecker in High Fidelity (2000). Sick of it all indeed.
Sick Of It All screened at Raindance London, and has an additional screening on the 28th of September 16 at 1315.
Review by Joe Sommerlad
Sick Of It All. USA 2016. Directed by Brian McGuire. Starring Amy Claire, Logan Sparks, Zion McGuire...