“What I’ve always wanted to do is direct.” More cringeworthy words have never been uttered, when it comes to Hollywood stars wanting to switch sides of the camera. But is that fair? Lots of actors have gone on to respectable careers as directors (Clint Eastwood and Ron Howard to name just two, though I’m not a fan of either). So here are six shorts: vanity projects or first forays into a new career? I’ll let you know.
- Glock (12 minutes, USA, Director: Tom Everett Scott): Written, directed by and starring Tom Everett Scott, this is a harmless bit of fun concerning a newly-trained spy who waits for his phone to ring with secret missions. Extremely broad humour and a standard short film “punch line” ending. (7/10)
- Eve (22 minutes, USA, Director: Natalie Portman): Olivia Thirlby plays a young woman visiting her grandmother (Lauren Bacall) who drags her along on a date with a widower (Ben Gazzara). The younger woman is eager to discuss her mother Eve but the older woman avoids the subject. There’s some indication that Eve is troubled. I thought Bacall brought a real sense of gravitas to the proceedings, even as her character rather shallowly pursues Gazzara for his money. Thirlby was also strong as a serious young woman looking for some answers. Portman was wise to keep the story small and tightly-focussed, and her direction is anything but showy. Sufjan Stevens’ piano score added another layer of class. (8/10)
- Monday Before Thanksgiving (19 minutes, USA, Director: Courteney Cox): Filled with the worst sort of clichés and plot contrivances, including some wisdom-spouting voiceover at both beginning and end. A truly bad script, too, about being happy and single or something. Sad to see Laura Dern in this sort of dreck. (5/10)
- One Of Those Days (14 minutes, UK, Director: Hattie Dalton): Derek Jacobi’s performance lifts this rather shopworn subject matter, playing a man who finds himself and his wife caught up in some bureaucratic bungling on Judgement Day. Slickly shot, though not terribly original. (7/10)
- The Spleenectomy (12 minutes, USA, Director: Kirsten Smith): Similarly, Anna Faris rises above some mediocre material, playing twin sisters, one a scattered and unsuccessful community theatre actress, and the other a prim surgeon. Of course, there’s a case of mistaken identity. And a precocious cute son with glasses. Meh. (6/10)
- Sparks (24 minutes, USA, Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt): Based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, Sparks is the most overtly showy of the films I saw tonight. Gordon-Levitt takes a risk with some of his tricks but I thought he mostly succeeded. Eric Stoltz plays an insurance investigator trying to determine if Carla Gugino’s character burned down her own house. The noirish plot and dialogue are contrasted with some jarring editing decisions and oddly artificial props and sets. Beginning and ending with scenes of Gugino singing with a rock band added some great energy. (Director’s site) (8/10)
In my research, I discovered that both Monday Before Thanksgiving and The Spleenectomy were part of Glamour Reel Moments, a competition running annually since 2005, sponsored by Glamour magazine and Suave shampoo! Each film was apparently “inspired” by an idea submitted by a Glamour reader. Another film from this year’s edition, Streak was directed by Demi Moore and starred her daughter Rumer Willis. Initially, I wondered why that one didn’t make it into this programme, but seeing as the two Glamour-sponsored films were my least favourite, I’m not really bothered to track down Demi’s effort now.