Where did you come from? The happy world of bunnies?
A review by Mike Shea Movie Rating: ( * * * * · ) DVD Rating: ( * * · · · )
There have been some interesting articles about how digital filmmaking may be the beginning or end of a new era of film. Now anyone with a $2000 digital camera and a Macintosh can be Martin Scorsese. This could mean a flood of really bad pictures or a new source for really good ones. It could be a new beginning for some great independent films. Films like A Better Place.
Without sounding too cliche' it is a movie about two teenagers drastically shaped by their environments. It is a movie with a story as raw as it's camera work. The choppy editing and grainy film almost help add to the realism of the movie and the characters.
On the first day of school, our hero is attacked by a bully and his beer-drinking henchmen. It's easy to paint the thug as a bad guy until his father calls him a faggot when he is picked up with a broken nose. This is a powerful story that takes no escapes from the gruesome reality it paints. Every character has a solid motivation and actions stemming from the past. The violence isn't glorified or glossed over, it is brought right out in front to show reactions to violent actions. During a pivotal scene, one main character tells the other his philosophies on fixed sterilization, forced abortions and liberal executions to rebuild society. We are as horrified as our hero until we understand the oppression he has felt for the last ten years of his life.
While the script could use a bit of a polish and the acting was stiff, the story and direction were top notch. There is nothing that shows the first time direction or the fact that it was a movie made for $40,000. To put that into prospective, you could have had 1000 movies like this for the price of one Star Wars episode, and frankly, this is better.
The DVD of A Better Place contains everything you would expect from a top production cut, even though it was put together on a shoestring. The picture is unfortunately 4x3 but represents the actual aspect ratio of the film so only those of us with widescreen TVs can whine. The audio is a full Dolby Digital 5.1 mainly used for musical tracks. Probably one of the greatest pieces are the three introductions by producers Scott Moser and Kevin Smith. Considering this is just about the only version of the film, one can hardly complain.
A Better Place is probably the best lost film I have seen in a long time. For a first time effort we are given a great story that goes beyond the limitations of the script or acting. The subject matter is a bit hard core in this age of Columbine. The limited distribution probably helped keep the book burning politicians away. More importantly, it is a hope that great films can still reach us even underneath the oppressive thumb of the MPAA. Most importantly it is a great film.