By Simon Miraudo
July 9, 2014
More anti-human than Antichrist, Matthew Kowalchuck‘s beyond-black comedy Lawrence & Holloman asks us to revel in the largely-unsuccessful emotional torture of a jerk by a sociopath. And they said cinema had run out of heroes. Based on the stage play by Canadian Morris Panych – a fan of Neil LaBute, probably – it elicits sporadic laughs from its bleak series of nihilistic skits. However, the grisliness stretches on too long, diminishing its sting significantly. Perhaps as a short it would left a greater impression; it certainly would have made the final “reveal” feel like less of a foregone conclusion.
Ben Cotton stars as Lawrence, a lonely clerk close to suiciding who finds last-minute friendship with a-hole salesman Holloman (Daniel Arnold). Lawrence’s horrendous life – comprised solely of death fantasies, caring for his ailing mother, and admiring from afar the smoky-voiced Zooey (Katharine Isabelle) – seems especially awful when placed in such close proximity to Holloman’s, what with his adoring fiancée (Amy Matysio), charmed professional career, and inability to ever taste consequences for his transgressions. But Holloman somehow manages to pick up some bad luck from his new buddy, enduring cosmic punishment after cosmic punishment, while Lawrence finds the pieces of his life magically coming together. That’s still not good enough for Lawrence, though, with Holloman’s unwavering optimism managing to enrage and depress him even further.
The low-status/high-status game played by Cotton and Arnold is occasionally fun to watch; a round of theatre sports in which Arnold never relinquishes his rank no matter how furiously the formerly-passive Cotton snatches at it. As performers in a movie, their turns feel slightly stilted. Much better is Katharine Isabelle, whose character journey also requires a number of wild gear changes, and yet, the actress remains grounded, and (particularly impressive in the face of her co-stars intensifying inner-and-outer grotesqueness) human.
We’d be having a very different conversation if Lawrence & Holloman had the good sense to sharpen its story in the same way that it sharpens its claws. A 45-minute version of the same could have been a delectable, demonic treat. In its current shape, it rudely overstays its welcome. I thought Canadians were meant to be polite?
Lawrence & Holloman plays the Revelation Perth International Film Festival July 10 and 12, 2014.