The Movie Waffler Raindance Film Festival 2024 Review - DOUBLE EXPOSURE | The Movie Waffler

Raindance Film Festival 2024 Review - DOUBLE EXPOSURE

Double Exposure review
A struggling photographer's life takes a strange turn with the reappearance of the ex-girlfriend he believed was dead.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Howard Goldberg

Starring: Alexander Calvert, Caylee Cowan, Kahyun Kim

Double Exposure poster

Writer/director Howard Goldberg's 1975 feature debut Apple Pie was a minor cult classic of its era and became a fixture on a then thriving midnight movie circuit. We don't really have a midnight movie circuit anymore, but movies like Neil Breen's Cade: The Tortured Crossing and Douglas Burke's Surfer: Teen Confronts Fear have recently found their way onto cinema screens through one-off event screenings, and have been embraced by fans of so-bad-it's-genius cinema. Hopefully Goldberg can get his latest - Double Exposure, only his fourth film in a 50-year career - into similar screenings, as it's very much a crowd-pleaser, if the crowd can tune into its bonkers wavelength.

Double Exposure review

The movie establishes its tone from the off, opening with an over the phone argument between struggling photographer Peter (Alexander Calvert), who is driving through Los Angeles, and his lawyer wife Lora (Kahyun Kim), who is getting sloshed on wine back at home. Through a dialogue exchange that makes Tommy Wiseau's The Room seem positively Sorkinesque, we learn that Lora believes Peter is still in love with his ex-girlfriend Sara (Caylee Cowan), who passed away four years ago. Peter insists he's over Sara, but while arguing he seemingly gets involved in an accident, only to find his car is undamaged. Minutes later he receives a phone call from none other than Sara, who apparently is still very much alive and living nearby.

"All that we see or seem, is but a dream within a dream, " Edgar Allan Poe famously wrote. In Goldberg's film all we see or seem is but a dream within a dream within a flashback within a dream within a flashback within a flash forward within an out of body experience within a dream within a flashback. Or something. Sara's surprise phone call sparks off a head-melting surreal narrative that flashes back to the beginning of Peter and Sara's courtship while inter-cutting with what we assume is the present day, only for the two to bleed into each other to the point where it's impossible to keep track of the plot, which probably doesn't make a whole lot of sense anyway.

Double Exposure review

My guess is that Goldberg is aiming for a distinctively LA neo-noir like those David Lynch movies set in the City of Angels (he regularly employs that blurry effect so beloved of Lynch), where innocents are corrupted by the lure of fame. There are stock Tinseltown villains like a sleazy Harvey Weinstein-esque publisher and a hilariously skeezy photographer (Simon Kim) who prides himself on banging all of his models, including Sara. But Goldberg clearly doesn't have an ounce of Lynch's talent for this material, and the entertainment value comes in how oddly executed this whole affair is.

Double Exposure is one of those bad movies that can only be made in LA, where there's a surplus of talent so desperate for work that they won't ask questions no matter how ridiculous a script they're working with. It has the perfectly fine but bland visual look of a Lifetime movie, and Cowan's enjoyably deranged dingbat performance as Sara suggests that may be where her future lies. The acting never sinks to the level of similar scale productions made in more provincial American cities. But everything is just slightly off, like the awkward blocking and editing that will have characters appear on screen in a manner that makes it all too clear they were standing just out of shot awaiting instructions to enter the scene. You can tell most of the actors here are perfectly capable, but they either deliver their terrible dialogue with palpable embarrassment or in the case of Kim, decide it's best to embrace the insanity and dial everything up to 11.

Double Exposure review

It's difficult to describe the distinctively weird vibe created by the mixing of a capable if workmanlike cast and crew with a director whose bizarre vision they simply can't translate. But trust me, it's hilarious. I watched this alone at home on a screener, and I found myself growing increasingly envious of anyone lucky enough to catch this with a festival crowd or at the sort of event screening it truly warrants. There are moments of sheer madness that will bring the house down and lines that I can see being printed on t-shirts by enthusiastic fans of trash cinema (my personal fave: "You capture people's souls...but where's yours?"). Trying to write about a movie as indescribably insane as Double Exposure is akin to attempting to convey the thrill of a great rollercoaster through words; it's a futile effort. Nothing I say can prepare you for the illicit joy of Double Exposure.

Double Exposure plays at the 2024 Raindance Film Festival on June 24th.

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