Futile Attraction is an interesting film not just because of its style and content, but because of how it came to be made. Firstly, the film itself was shot in less than two weeks. Secondly, post-production processing took more than two years. Thirdly, a lot of the funding was actually obtained from donations given over the Internet, rather than being drawn from grants, private production companies, etc., which makes the movie a key artifact for people interested in studying how the Internet is changing our culture.
The plot is extremely complex for such a short film, and much of the pacing feels rushed. One wishes that screenwriters Mark Prebble (also the film’s director) and Benedict Reid had given us a more leisurely movie, so that we could enjoy more thorough character development and plot progression.
In a nutshell, Danielle Mason is an environmental activist who oppresses her sweet but increasingly-frustrated son, played by Peter Rutherford. Alistair Browning plays a vain host who wants to do a show about Mason’s character, while Glenda Tuaine is his long-suffering employee.
As if that was not complicated enough, we also have some knotty business going on with Futile Attraction’s placement in any sort of genre. Some readers will have probably already guessed that the film’s title is a play on the name of the erotic thriller Fatal Attraction. Actually, Futile Attraction aims to poke fun at the conventions of romantic comedies. Its plot trajectory (which will not be revealed here) is definitely not that of a typical romantic comedy.
Mark Prebble has also taken pains to give the film a particular look and style that differentiates it from “normal” romantic comedies. The film is shot in the style of a mockumentary, and thus cinematography and editing are slightly less polished that what one might see in a Hollywood movie. So, is this style good or bad for the film? For one, it does make the movie stand out, particularly for audiences who are used to very slick, music video-esque filmmaking. On the other hand, when combined with the complicated, affected plot, the mockumentary style of the movie seems pretentious—an artsy affectation from a director who is trying to prove that he is better than his audience.
These imperfect, ambiguous elements can also be detected in the way the film treats its characters. Shrill women and ridiculous men can be the foundations of good comedy—even great comedy—but a film that spends all its time poking fun at its characters’ flaws and the clichés of a particular genre can seem a little immature and shallow in its own way. In good comedies, poking fun at the characters does not necessarily mean that you cannot respect their complexity, and even show affection for them. Prebble has not yet worked out this balance, but as he matures as a director, we might see his approach towards his characters change.
All in all, this is a promising but flawed debut from an obviously talented director. Perhaps next time, we will get to see more of Prebble’s potential.
Director: Mark Prebble
Writers: Mark Prebble, Benedict Reid
Starring: Glenda Tuaine, Peter Rutherford, Danielle Mason, Alistair Browning
Country: New Zealand
Running time: 80 min.