The routines and strifes of a disenchanted social media influencer are reimagined with an 18th century backdrop.
This is very much an a-typical short film as it came into existence via a competition held by Adobe asking college students to design a movie poster, the winner of which would have their poster turned into a short film. The winner of the competition, a Boston University senior named Sam West was fortunate enough to have his work interpreted and re-imagined by none other than Scrubs star Zach Braff.
No stranger to the director’s chair (see Garden State, Wish I Was Here as well as numerous episodes of Scrubs and Alex Inc. to name a few) Braff truly takes the abstract imagery and deep dives into a concept-driven period drama as the lifestyle of a social media influencer is reimagined in an 18th century stately manor setting. Anchored by none other than Alicia Silverstone and Florence Pugh, this film hits the mark of becoming instantly likeable, utilising visual comedy and period-specific stand-ins for modern-day trappings (see the bedside cockerel crowing in place of an alarm clock).
Many short films achieve the ability to be visually impressive but this film is among the few that truly looks and feels expensive, from the opening CG shot that starts above the clouds and swoops right through protagonist Lucille’s (Pugh) window to the elaborate morning “dance” featuring multiple extras, a plethora of period costumes, a train of luscious food, props and insane amounts of action. As the film progresses, however it becomes clear that ‘expensive’ is the point. Braff does not make the film showy for its own sake. He establishes a theme that becomes central to Lucille’s dilemma.
Whether intended or not, the materialistic affluence of Lucille’s existence being reflected in the ostentatious visuals of the film itself is a gloriously meta masterstroke. This makes the self-referential nature of the film work in service of its central theme rather than just being a gimmick or hollow decoration.
Aesthetically, this is an Art Director and Cinematographer’s dream. Prop and costume detail is exquisitely meticulous, colours and vibrancy shower every frame and the balance between light and shadow, pivoting on almost ethereal shafts of light and mesmerising highlights makes this a beautiful film to look at.
Florence Pugh makes a perfect conduit for the core message of the story, embodying the loveable personality at the centre of the artificial utopia used to sell products to the masses. The real person we see is incredibly easy to engage with. She is funny, vulnerable and thoughtful in all of the ways that make her endearing to the viewer, but ironically not the follower. Pugh brilliantly projects the subdued melancholy and conflicted sadness of someone who hates the artificiality of her life but struggles to let go of the perks and lifestyle that come with it.
Alicia Silverstone similarly nails the role of being an incredibly elegant devil on Lucille’s shoulder, highlighting her ability to choose but making the downside of abandoning her current lifestyle abundantly clear (the personal hand holder moment is a comedic delight). Silverstone’s Eliza very much runs the show, handling the messaging, logistics and personally picking out who Lucille’s persona is going to endorse today.
Both of these roles require a large measure of comedic excellence as well as the ability to command the screen, guiding us either to Lucille being swept along in a storm over which she has no control or Eliza’s masterful puppeteering of the thriving business that passingly resembles Lucille’s life.
The social commentary is not subtle, but as with the ostentatious nature of the film, it is not supposed to be. Instead as we see all of the moving parts of a transactional phenomenon that has become so ingrained in contemporary culture, this on the nose message gives us a moment of pause. It encourages us to ask ourselves where we find value and to consider whether or not we are too afraid to pursue a life of true substance if it means sacrificing the adulation of others, even if that adulation is for something that actually does not exist.
So, if you are to take the time to ask these questions of yourself, this film is the perfect way to have a little fun while you do it.
Studio: Adobe Creative Cloud | Year: 2019 | Genre: Comedy/Satire/Period Drama | Duration: 12 Mins | Suitability: Mature - Language and scenes of nudity