The Movie Waffler Raindance 2023 Review - WARHOL | The Movie Waffler

Raindance 2023 Review - WARHOL

Warhol review
Three narratives play out around a late night radio station.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Adam Ethan Crow

Starring: Corey Johnson, Gethin Anthony, Tiannah Harding, Kashif O'Connor, Araloyin Oshunremi

Warhol poster

The title of writer/director Adam Ethan Crow's Warhol is a nod to the pop artist's famous claim that everyone will enjoy "15 minutes of fame." Expanded from a 2014 short inspired by the tragic case of Jacintha Saldana, a nurse who took her life after being manipulated by a pair of radio hosts into putting their call through to Kate Middleton's maternity ward, the film argues that our desperation for fame has turned us into narcissists. That may well be a valid point of view, but the film expresses it in a manner that comes off like the "get off my lawn" rant of an out of touch old man who dislikes the modern world simply because it's no longer his own.

The film is split into three narratives which slightly but insubstantially overlap. The main story is an expansion of Crow's short, with Corey Johnson playing "Dangerous" Dave Dawson, an American shock jock who has relocated to London after being taken off the US airwaves for repeated breaches of broadcasting standards. Much to the annoyance of his producer Jack (Gethin Anthony), Dave continues to push the limits of free speech, jeopardising both of their jobs. Jack's imploring of Dave to turn it down only inspires the shock jock to behave like a rebellious child, pushing his callers to the limit. This leads to a fraught scenario involving a teenage caller whose initial tough talk fades when an intruder seemingly enters his home.

Warhol review

Outside the radio station, three characters are taking part in one of those "hands on a hardbody" competitions where the person who keeps their hand on a car the longest wins the vehicle. Among them is a deaf young woman, Karleen (Tiannah Harding), who is approached over the course of the night by a couple of people who feel they've been wronged by her actions. Entering the contest appears to be a last desperate act of redemption.

In a nearby park we find homeless military veteran Solomon (Kashif O'Connor), who has an encounter with angry young man Nile (Araloyin Oshunremi). The latter has been tasked with killing a random stranger as a gang initiation, with Solomon imparting his wisdom (yes, it's not the most subtle character name) in an attempt to dissuade Nile from ruining his life and ending someone else's.

Warhol review

Warhol is clearly well-intentioned, but after simmering on the narrative hob for 80 minutes its message boils down to nothing more insightful than "be nice." That's all very well but it's executed with the naivete of a church production. This is especially evident in the Solomon/Nile subplot, which plays exactly like the sort of cheesy educational drama a teacher or youth pastor might show to a classroom after spending 20 minutes trying to figure out how to hook up a combo TV/DVD player. Solomon's dialogue is as one-the-nose as his moniker, reading like a well-prepared treatise rather than a genuine human interaction.

Dangerous Dave's dialogue is similarly over-written, though in this case it can be excused as well-rehearsed lines the host has fallen back on countless times in his years of being a verbose smartass. Johnson is by far the best performer in the ensemble, bringing a life to his character despite how thinly written he might be. It's easy to see how this subplot might have worked as a short, as there is some tension in his manipulation of his teenage caller. The addition of a clunky scene in which a female coworker makes a revelation doesn't do it any favours though.

Warhol review

The most intriguing subplot in theory if not execution is that involving the contest. There's a compelling ambiguity to Karleen's silent interactions with her aggressors, but it's an arc that's ultimately left unresolved. The film wants us to sympathise with Karleeen but we're never given any tangible reason why we should do so. Who's to say those who feel aggrieved by Karleen aren't justified in their feelings? Making the character deaf does at least prevent this segment from falling into the trap of verbosity of the other two plotlines.

Warhol is an odd mix of strong and weak performances, and of subplots that are either left ambiguous or have their message rammed down the viewer's throat. Its slick visuals and Johnson's magnetic performance are its key selling points, but elsewhere it's a rough around the edges piece of filmmaking of the most annoyingly didactic kind.

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