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A massive plaster gander atop a highway restroom proves the most telling image in writer-director Charlie Ahearn’s addled road psychodrama, Fear of Fiction. In recounting the tale of two irritating strangers’ memory-clotted, trans-Canadian journey, the film ends up resembling nothing so much as a wild-goose chase. Ostensibly concerned with the enigmatic bond between twins and the fluidity of personal identity, Fear of Fiction teems with stand-ins and doppelgängers, calculated repetitions and ponderous coincidences. Such heady concerns are glibly skirted, however, and Ahearn’s maddening game of connect-the-dots is content to collapse inward with honking, preening abandon.
Knottier than warped plywood, Fear of Fiction‘s plot recounts the intersection of vampish wannabe-author Sigrid (Melissa Leo, formerly of Homicide) and sketchy college kid Red (Sam Trammell) with Red’s creepy twin, Tom (Trammell again), Sigrid’s dead twin brother, stoned Sisters of Mercy, and Penn Jillette’s garage-rock-crazed tweaker, among others. Jillette’s tape-shuffling tenuously accounts for the movie’s Roman-chorus sound track (tunes courtesy of Lounge Lizard Evan Lurie and Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo). It’s a cavalier linkage, but such aggressive authorial monkeying is par for Fear of Fiction‘s course, as low-rent aesthetics do little to streamline metaphysical grandstanding. That it all might be the contents of Sigrid’s eponymous novel is the final snotty, scatterbrained wink on Ahearn’s part—for Sigrid, after all, is just another grating fiction concocted by the filmmaker himself.