“we are only what we always were”
This first directoral film from Quinn Shephard, ostensibly based on Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, loses its bearings and careens itself into the abyss of what high school writers should rightly be called, which is not very good. Grounded on a few vague literary references, this film carries few of the creative moments in those books throughout the performances and reduces its actors into mean girl redundancies with (unintelligible) daddy issues and an obsessiveness over impressing young boys through bra-and-panty gyrating and promiscuity. Even the lead character, who should know better, is absurdly naive and desperately in need for a richer background story aside from vague references Shephard provides concerning her psychological state of mind.
The film, aside from the warning to parents that high schools are full of predatory teachers and impetuous girls who accumulate regret after giving themselves over to immature boys, teaches little. Cliché themes matched by subpar acting, throw away side dramas without meaningful development, Christian themes having little to add to the underlying narrative, unfolding endings without the requisite foreshadowing from accomplished writers, and this Rotten Tomatoes aggregate rating system that confuses the audience by suggestng that a D- project has garnered wide scale support (at the time of publishing, the film was at 80% with 25 reviews).
I hate to crap on this directorial debut because Hollywood certainly needs more female directors telling their stories from their unique vantage point and the story behind the funding of the project is certainly unfortunate, but Blame is an absolute waste of time, from start to finish: even with the generous, clap trap overlays from Rogerebert.com reviewer, Sheila O’Malley. Compared to Kelly Fremon Craig with The Edge of Seventeen (female directorial debut) or Greta Gerwig with Lady Bird (female directorial debut), Quinn Shephard’s competence is perhaps beyond correction, despite what Pete Vonder Haar thinks: “it’s a deliberate film, and a brilliantly constructed one as well. We definitely haven’t heard the last of Quinn Shephard.”
Sorry Pete, I think we have. Consider the quality of Shane Carruth’s first film (Primer), consider Sofia Coppola’s first film (The Virgin Suicide), consider the quality of Mike Cahill’s first film (Another Earth), on and on, and you will see that talent is often on display from the very beginning and it is hard to imagine that Shephard, at least as a writer and an actor, has the capacity to do much better. We have more than enough average productions each year and it’s time for critics to criticize instead of pandering to the filmmakers for an opportunity to get limited access.
Do your job, folks.
NOTE: I’ve qualified my “daddy issues” comment with the term “unintelligible” after actress Nadia Alexander accused me of minimizing what what supposed to be a reference to rape. The narrative itself gave me no such impression. This was not the first time she misconstrued what I wrote.