Scalene (2011)

Description (from alongthetracks.com/films.html):
Told from three points-of-view, SCALENE is a perceptual thriller that revolves around a mother’s revenge after her mentally-challenged son is accused of a sexual assault by his student caretaker. This critically-acclaimed independent film has been applauded for its strong performances, gripping storyline, and unique structure that takes audiences on a movie-watching experience they have never had before.

Major Cast:
Margo Martindale as Janice, Hanna Hall as Page, Adam Scarimbolo as Jakob

Special Features:
None (Screener)
For Sale Version Includes: Teaser Trailer, Theatrical Trailer, PERCEIVING REALITY: THE MAKING OF SCALENE (First 15 minutes available on DVD, full 3.5 hour documentary available on Blu-Ray only), World Premiere / Q&A at Dances with Films, Awards Ceremony at Dances with Films

Written by Brandon Owens and Zack Parker
Directed by Zack Parker

 

My God, there are just so many things to love about SCALENE; I apologize in advance if I come off a bit “fanboy” on this one, but this was an amazing flick.  I am a big fan of skipping the exposition and getting right into the meat of the story and letting the story play itself out, and SCALENE does that beautifully, with an opening of Janice attempting to kill Page.  What a way to grab your attention: no character introductions, no build up, no fluff, just Janice walking up to the front door of Page’s home with a revolver and bad intentions.  Attention grabbed, by the throat, with claws.

With many films, we’d move on from this point and have the backstory slowly explained to us through characters talking about what drove Janice to do it, or flashbacks, or whatever plot device was employed, but in a pretty non-conventional take, Parker instead begins to move the story backwards.  We back up to see Janice buying the gun, we see Janice at work, we see Janice and her mentally disabled son Jakob at a sentencing hearing in which we find out the crux: he has been accused of raping his caregiver, Page, and will be going to a hospital for 3 to 5 years or more.  Now that was not a spoiler, so don’t get mad at me!  This is the first few minutes of the movie.  I will not spoil the twists that SCALENE has in store for you, because they are great and varied.

This one's the perfect size for a lady...
This one’s the perfect size for a lady…

After a ways of traipsing backwards through Janice’s story, the plot hits a crossroads where it veers off.  We are no longer going backwards, we are now going – for lack of a better descriptor – sideways through Jakob’s story, in his POV.  We now get the reason he is the way he is, and more of a true feeling of what his life was truly like before and after the events that caused his condition.  Within this short jaunt, we hit another crossroads, where we get to Page’s story, which brings us back from the beginning to the end.  This masterful engineering of the plot structure brought to mind Christopher Nolan’s earlier films – FOLLOWING and MEMENTO – and just took what would be an interesting enough story way over the top to a suspenseful, heart-wrenching dramatic piece that turns in ways you would not imagine.

If it is not already painfully obvious, I loved the script for SCALENE.  It is incredibly well written, both in terms of the plot and also the dialogue.  No matter how good the script is, the movie can only be a success of the actors have the talent to carry the words off the page in a believable manner.  Holy shit did they do so!  Excluding the extras and characters that had a paltry one or two lines, there was not one weak performance anywhere in SCALENE, but the three leads were all hands-down phenomenal.  Scarimbolo as Jakob does a masterful job of emoting without saying a word, which is an incredibly tough task to perform; while he never says a word, his eyes scream out, his face drips emotion, he conveys more in a look than many actors do in a monologue.  Hall as Page is top-notch as well; I had no trouble in believing her growing attachment to Jakob and concern for him, and therefore the tragedy that occurs becomes all the more potent.  Finally, and most impressively, Martindale as Janice: good goddamn.  This woman should not be heading a low-budget independent film; she should be co-starring with Meryl Streep and Daniel Day-Lewis.  I was so incredibly impressed and moved by her performance that I don’t even have the words to describe how good she was.  I can think of only one: wow.

A kid in an adult's body that doesn't like pizza?
A kid in an adult’s body that doesn’t like pizza?

To add to the quality of the script and the magnitude of the acting, the film’s production values also obscure the lack of budget SCALENE possesses.  Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t a $35 movie or anything like that; I should know, I’ve reviewed a ton of those. While I’m not sure of the budget, I am sure SCALENE is well below the $1M cap that I set on this site, but the money they did have was employed gainfully.  First off, SCALENE was shot on the RED camera system, and how I wish I could have truly seen that!  Unfortunately for me, Breaking Glass has had to reduce the video quality on their screeners due to piracy concerns… and this is probably the most angry I’ve been about that fact.  Seriously, if I could find out what jerk is breaking that trust by pirating screeners I would love to give him/her a swift kick squa in the nuts (it would hurt if it’s a girl too, I’m sure), because I can tell EVEN THROUGH THE REDUCED QUALITY, that SCALENE is a gorgeous movie.  So gorgeous, that I am going to go buy myself a copy on Blu-Ray so I can see it with my own eyes.  There is wonderful camera movement, great attention to detail, divine composition, and beautiful lighting (including a few certain colored lights placed at certain times, pay attention) that makes me really bemoan the fact that I had to watch this on a reduced quality DVD rather than a Blu-Ray!  The fact that is was shot on the RED is also put to good use in the way the camera moves and is moved; there are shots that just could not be done with a full-sized film camera that the RED excels at (e.g., Jakob’s POV looking into the mirror, or the 360˚ shot in the hearing room).  Sublime stuff all around.

The interview.  The beginning of the end.
The interview. The beginning of the end.

There were just a few things that kept this from being perfect.  While I loved the main characters and the actors giving those performances, a lot of the more minor characters seemed to be an afterthought in the casting, and their inadequateness was made more salient by the impact the leads had.  I also had some issues with the interactions between Page and her family, and felt that relationship could either have been defined a bit deeper or cut out more, one or the other.  Finally, while I loved the performance as Janice, I didn’t love the character of Janice, and maybe I’m not supposed to.  As a mother to a disable son, there are a lot of things that she does that really rub me the wrong way, and again this may be intentional as there are a lot of other things going on in this plot that work off of each other.  “Scalene” is defined as a triangle with three unequal sides; that’s this story, three people seeing one situation from three very unequal viewpoints, and it may just be that Janice had to be that way for Page to be the way she is.

Red.
Red.  Keep a watch for Green and Blue.

Overall, I loved SCALENE.  Loved it.  This was one of the best twisted-time films I’ve seen in a long time, and I was incredibly amazed at the manipulation that went into creating this plot and script.  I was even more impressed by the production quality that backed that script.  And finally, the staggeringly stupendous job the lead actors did in carrying this script from words to screen.  I can not wait to see what Parker does next… please Hollywood take note, and give this man some money, because this is what good films are made of!

 

Overall 9 / 10

SCALENE on the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1647477/

SCALENE for sale: http://www.shop.breakingglasspictures.com/searchquick-submit.sc?keywords=scalene

SCALENE site: http://alongthetracks.com

Scalene (2011)Theatrical Poster
Scalene (2011)
Theatrical Poster
Scalene (2012)DVD Release
Scalene (2012)
DVD Release

 

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3 thoughts on “Scalene (2011)

  1. I also enjoyed the film, I am curious what you made of the discrepancy between how Paige’s viewpoint of the attack differed from how Janice’s initial viewpoint of the attack went? It was impossible for both to be different viewpoints of the same event as in Janice’s view Paige never hung the phone up and in Paige’s Janice was still lying there as she hung up the phone. Are we to believe that each “memory” was in fact Janice running through what could happen? If so it seems strange to have each thought be the same up until the very end, but I can live with it. I enjoyed it very much just trying to wrap my mind around the end.

    1. Nice noticing; I’d have to go back and watch it again to really comment since it;s been a while. But I love it when people pick up things that I don’t! Thanks for commenting and please keep ’em coming!

      When I do go back and watch it again (and I loved this movie enough that I bought the blu-ray), I will come back and give you an answer. That may be 10 years from now with my schedule, but I will answer!!!

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