Much of Olga Humphrey's new dramedy, F-Stop, betrays the look and feel of the preliminary Polaroids taken before a film shoot begins. Though it offers some fine angles and smart phrases, it could use a clearer focus, a less obtrusive frame, and a firmer composition.
F-Stop trains its lens on the interplay between Susanne a/k/a Chop Susie, a spoiled martial arts star, and Caleb, a presumptuous paparazzo. Flown to Africa for a spot of UNICEF glad-handing and a glossy photo spread, they spar and spat--each snatching for the reins in the relationship. During a rare attempt at peacemaking, Susanne (Patricia Randell) insists, "There's this thing going on between us." Caleb (Christopher Burns) coolly replies, "It's called mutual horror." A more substantive--if
contrived--sort of conflict arises when a dictator with a yen for Chop Susie enters the picture, violating the civil rights of all and sundry.
The actors acquit themselves favorably, growing into their roles following some awkward and unnecessary flashback framing sequences. And Humphrey reveals herself as a young writer to keep an eye on. She has a hell of a way with a one-liner, but let's hope she leaves her taste for sentimentality and extended monologue by the wayside. Unfortunately, director Eliza Beckwith does an indifferent job developing Humphrey's script. She falters in tone, pitching the reality-based scenes so high that the more surreal moments (such as frequent outtakes from Chop Susie's movies) have nowhere to go. And Beckwith should encourage her actors away from stereotyping or relying on cheap gags. Mugging never looks good on camera.
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