The creators of the lame psychological thriller Backgammon try and fail to nail twentysomething bourgeois-bohemians by treating them like human dartboards.
Director Francisco Orvañanos and co-writers Todd Niemi and R.B. Russell’s suffocating chamber drama focuses on socialite artistes who alternately seduce and psychoanalyze one another while vacationing at a secluded mansion. These stereotypical snobs pitch fits, quote poetry and drink heavily because they cannot see — and therefore do not care about — anyone but themselves. As a result, you can’t really tell why Lucian (Noah Silver), a milquetoast art history student, ditches his girlfriend, Elizabeth (Olivia Crocicchia), in order to pursue manic-depressive dream girl Miranda (Brittany Allen). We know that Miranda is mercurial because she encourages Lucian to join her for a spur-of-the-moment skinny-dip moments before she makes pompous observations about monogamy, as when she claims that “romance exists outside marriage.”
And we know that Lucian is sensitive because he takes three showers in slow motion while an obtrusive, pseudo-sorrowful piano score plays. But we don’t know what motivates Lucian and Miranda’s unhealthy relationship beyond overacting and bald, expository dialogue. Lucian’s cartoonish naïveté makes him an easy target for viewers’ scorn: You want to warn him to run away whenever Miranda acts out, as if he were a cluelessly oversexed slasher victim knocking on Jason Voorhees’s door.
Still, it’s Orvañanos and the gang’s barely repressed sexism that takes the cake, especially when Miranda mounts Lucian just after her attempt to kill herself. Backgammon may not be effectively provocative, but it is sometimes dumb enough to be offensive.
Directed by Francisco Orvañanos
Opens March 11, Cinema Village
Available on demand
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 9, 2016