The Movie Waffler Slamdance Film Festival 2020 Review - TAPEWORM | The Movie Waffler

Slamdance Film Festival 2020 Review - TAPEWORM

tapeworm review
The mundane lives of a selection of Canadians.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Milos Mitrovic, Fabian Velasco

Starring: Alex Ateah, Dave Barber, Stephanie Berrington, Adam Brooks, Jennifer Mauws

tapeworm poster

Whatever happened to the hipsters? Time was when you couldn’t move for too-big beards, too-small jeans and mason jars. I mean, you do see a few knocking about in Topshop or in those on-trend bars which suddenly pop up in town (before shutting down within a month or so...). They still exist, but it seems to me they’re not part of the culture in the same way. And by that, I mean it used to be that every other indie screener I received was some navel gazing nonsense featuring some self-involved, young (ish) beatnik types posing about in artfully distressed urban environments. Not so much these days. Perhaps the lack of cultural currency the hipster has is due to identity politics: these days people find actualisation in how they perceive themselves to be, rather than identifying with subcultures and social niches. I dunno. Just an observation, with no judgment either way. After all, I’m here to arbitrate films, not people. Which brings us to Milos Mitrovic and Fabian Velasco’s Tapeworm. A drama comedy set within the urban bohemia of Canada, featuring highly self-involved (not all young-ish) beatnik types. The hipsters are back! Let’s party like it’s 2014.

tapeworm review

Demonstrably entrenched within a tradition of indie-cinema, Tapeworm opens with a guy (beard, old enough to know better) needing to use the bathroom and not having much luck (a staple of indie movies: my favourite iteration of this trope is Vince Gallo - the first hipster? - needing a slash in Buffalo '66). And so he wanders off into the woods to do his business, and, as he goes, interrupts a younger couple (tattoos, beard) having it off. So weary he is that he settles down on the mattress they are using and rests his head. The couple stroke his beard. Wacky, or what?

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The aimless wandering is deliberately resumed by the film’s narrative, which meanders between different characters and their various stages of dissatisfaction (r.e Slacker). There is the stand-up comedian who is awful (tricky thing, isn’t it, to write proper stand up for film); the sad sack who has a haircut like someone off Arcade Fire and who still lives with his mom; the couple who have sex but don’t love each other (so?); and then back to the bathroom bloke, who thinks he has a tapeworm and doesn’t like his wife.

tapeworm review

Thing is though, the self-conscious kook of the opening sequence has served to disassociate us from the characters, which entirely prevents any empathy for this bunch and their quotidian issues. Yeah, it’s hard to be a stand up: like anything worth doing, you have to persevere. Got a bad tummy and think you might be dying? Go to the doctor: it might just be stress. Don’t like living with your mother? Talk to her, see if you can work it out: or just move out because she is clearly fed up of your mooning about and probably hates you. The couple who are having meaningless sex? I got nothing for you. No one is being forced up a chimney here, or discriminated against, or mired in circumstances beyond their control to change.

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The level of entitlement of this bunch is insane. I’m not sure where our sympathies are meant to fall here, but then, with its ironic, deadpan trappings - a case of having-your-Pabst-and-drinking-it - nor is Tapeworm. In fairness, there is a promising level of craftmanship here, with strong framing and some nice lighting, along with well organised narrative pacing. The desultory stand up sequences even approach the sustained heights of cruelty that Todd Solondz scales. You can’t help but wonder though, do people like this actually exist? Why should we care either way?

tapeworm review

Back to that bloke needing the bathroom at the start. He only goes and does a big poo in the woods, and then the camera, with juvenile John Waters glee, focuses in on what is, to all intents and purposes, a big old pile of bloody shit.

Can’t say they didn’t warn you.

A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.

2020 film reviews