Starting off where A’s review last left off, rule number 2 is “dream.”
On to the “Throuple” review!
Unlike “Popolo,” “The Cutting Truth” and “Go For Broke,” I did not see any sort of advertisement for “Throuple” prior or during its release. I actually came across the film on iTunes while I was looking for songs to purchase (gotta support starving artists). After clicking on the poster, I found out “Throuple” was made by Big Island independent filmmaking duo Phillips Payson (director) and Zoe Eisenberg (writer). After the League and myself watched the film, we all agreed that it was legitimately good. Also, unlike “Popolo” and “The Cutting Truth,” this is one of those local independent films that has a significant amount of pros and a lesser amount of cons. I would actually recommend people rent or even buy this feature film.
“Throuple” is about a couple (James and Lexi) who move next door to Remy, Will and Skunk, who are all in a relationship with each other. As James befriends the polyamorous trio, different types of conflict get in the way of a potential happiness.
There is of course more to the plot, but I feel it’s fair to leave the synopsis as vague as possible.
This is of course, not a perfect movie. But the beautiful thing about “Throuple” is that every complaint you might have eventually reveals itself to be a thoughtful choice made by the writer/director that the audience will come to understand. Well, at least for majority of the movie. Let’s get into it:
The films plot has a unique take on the order of which the events unfold. The film cuts back and forth to the future and then to the present. While watching this film, I didn’t quite understand why the director or writer decided to go against presenting the events of the film in chronological order. To me, the odd choice in which to present the order of events didn’t seem to add anything significant. But when the film ended and the credits started to roll, I soon realized it was probably the wiser decision to go with the deft switch between future and present. The reason why I admit this is because when the film heads into the climax and the final event plays out, the ending doesn’t feel out of place. It feels well earned. If the film went in chronological order, it’s possible the ending might have felt forced and unnatural. So I applaud the writer and/or the director for the bold decision in which the events unfold.
Speaking of writing, Zoe Eisenberg has crafted a breathtaking script. Most of the dialogue came across as fluid and natural. It actually felt like real people communicating with each other rather than desperately trying to be deep and serious. My favorite scenes in the movie are the arguments between James and Lexi and the conversation between Skunk and Lexi. When James and Lexi argue, you never feel like you’re listening to a script, you feel like you’re in the room listening to two people verbally battle it out. And that’s due to Zoe Eisenberg’s writing abilities. It’s raw, real and truthful. It actually reminded me of arguments I’ve had with my significant other. I sincerely felt Zoe Eisenberg had a personal voice when crafting this script, and her efforts are not wasted. The other scene I really liked is when Skunk and Lexi have a small conversation. Something about that particular scene brought out the best in actors Ingrid Vollset (Lexi) and Caitlin Holcombe (Skunk). And I truly believe it’s because the dialogue they were given was crafted with care.
With a good script, it’s no surprise that the performances from the actors are also good. From the films beginning to the films end, I always believed each actor as their character. Jordan Turchin as James, Ingrid Vollset as Lexi, Todd Litzinger as Remy, Caitlin Holcombe as Skunk, Mikaal Bates as Will and Ayinde Howell as Hayward are all very good. Even when the performances cross over into over-the-top territory, it never feels like it’s inconsistent with the character. There were some problems I had with Todd Litzinger’s (Remy), Mikaal Bates’ (Will) and Caitlin Holcombe’s (Skunk) performance, but it wasn’t because they performed poorly, it was because they attempted to talk pidgin and it sounded incredibly forced. It literally sounded like white people from the mainland posing to be local. But once again, Zoe Eisenberg’s writing talents resolved my complaint by having the characters state they are in fact from the mainland and have only been in Hawai’i for six years. With that information given to the audience, the performances and the unnatural use of pidgin made much more sense and it felt like a specific choice the filmmakers wanted to make. Another compliment I give to the Big Island filmmaking duo.
Director Phillips Payson and writer Zoe Eisenberg make a great team. They both know that they need to trust the audience to piece things together themselves. They attempt to make the audience work which is incredibly admirable. There are several situations where the filmmakers never explain what really happened. They give enough visual cues and subtle lines of dialogue for the audience to make their own conclusions. However, they do sometimes fail at trusting their audience. A good example of this happens in the beginning leading into more than halfway into the movie. In the beginning of the movie, the character James establishes that Lexi was a smoker who quit when he brings up the fact that they can get food stamps to purchase tobacco. Lexi simply replies back, “I quit.” That information now rests with the audience. Leading up to more than halfway into the movie, we see Lexi is growing more stressed due to certain situations and she starts smoking again. When the scene opens up with the cigarette in her mouth, the audience knows the connection and understands why she goes back to smoking without a verbal confirmation. But in that particular scene, Lexi is talking on the phone to her friend while smoking a cigarette and she says something along the lines of “I’m not smoking. I quit remember?” Reminding the audience that she did indeed used to smoke. But the audience already knows this. It would have been more effective to throw away that one line of dialogue because it honestly feels like the movie is making sure the audience is keeping up with character traits. The movie doesn’t need to remind the audience because we are smart enough to remember important information and make vital connections ourselves without verbal confirmation. Another example of the movie not trusting the audience happens toward the end regarding some quick montages and cuts, but I won’t get into that due to the fact it would spoil the movie. But other than those two scenes, Zoe and Phillips know that it is essential to trust the audience.
The film consists of all original music composed by Andrew Payson, brother to the director. Andrew Payson’s songs help suck the audience into this whimsical situation. It’s catchy, effective, and like the entire movie, charming. Phillips Payson also knows when to add music to certain scenes and when to restrain from using music in certain scenes. He knows when music works and when it won’t. Simple decisions like these have the mark of someone who knows what he’s doing.
One of the biggest compliments I have for “Throuple” is that on a technical level, there are close to zero flaws. There are of course flaws here and there, but it’s impressively minimal. “Throuple’s” setting is mostly set at outdoor locations such as the beach where obvious annoyances regarding sound would interfere with making a film. Yet Phillips Payson found a way to have ninety-five percent of the dialogue completely audible despite Mother Nature’s typical annoyances. I did not watch this film with subtitles and I understood pretty much everything crystal clear. There are a couple scenes where the audio isn’t perfect and you can tell where the obvious cuts are, but like I said, it’s only noticeable for maybe two or three scenes tops. I was legitimately impressed at how well the audio came out considering where this film was shot.
Like I said before, this is not a perfect movie. There are obvious flaws that I could not look past. But even with that being said, the flaws never robbed the overall experience this film offers.
I’ll list the flaws because there’s not much to say. But anyway, here are the flaws that could not escape my radar:
•There are one too many montage scenes.
•There are some scenes that could’ve been taken out of the film due to the fact it didn’t serve any part of the story. Example scenes:
-James, Skunk, Remy and Will walking on the lava rock
-Flavor in the mouth conversation
•Things are just shown for no specific purpose. Examples:
-Hula hooping for no reason
•Ayinde Howell’s pidgin attempt is terrible. Hayward is the only character that is born and raised in Hawai’i. The actor Ayinde Howell obviously did not know how to use pidgin authentically, so it would have been better if the pidgin dialogue he was given was just turned over into proper English. But other than the pidgin, he was good.
Compared to the strengths, the flaws are present but minimal. I still highly recommend this film for a good time. After watching films like “Popolo” and “The Cutting Truth,” “Throuple” truly feels like a breath of fresh air. I look forward to see what else they have under their belt.