Branded (2012) Sept 8, 2012 16:00:47 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Sept 8, 2012 16:00:47 GMT -5
Branded allegedly appears to be a modernist work of art; the concept of a dystopian future, run by sly corporations who create products that etch themselves into the consumer's head to the point that they begin seeing logos and advertising literally everywhere is, in many ways, parallel to the drearily dictative world of advertising that we've become accustomed to today. I walked in with hopes I'd see a superb film about the marketing industry and the way it makes us into obeying sheep.
Well, that's what the trailer would lead you to believe this film is about. The actual film is a muddled, confusing, winded, and uninteresting slog through the most tedious ins and outs of marketing. Littered with meaningless scenes, plot-holes, and filled to the brim with intentions to alienate the audience members with its asinine premise, by the first hour, I gave up trying to understand everything and just hoped to see something resembling what I came for. That was some commentary on the advertising world we live in today. No such thing ever showed up.
One phrase I hate to see people use after seeing a film is, "it made no sense." It's an overused justification for why someone did not like a film, and is often used by people who most likely did not make a conscious effort to even follow the film in question. This will be the first and hopefully only time I use this phrase. The film makes no sense. I tried hard to comprehend events in the picture; researching, Googling, and reading other reviews after my initial viewing and now I'm faced with the challenge of describing a plot I barely understand to my readers.
But such a thing needs to be done and will be done. We follow Ed Stoppard's Misha Galkin, an expert marketer in post-communist Russia, working for his girlfriend's uncle, played by Jeffrey Tambor. Tambor overacts horrendously in this film, but I wasn't upset about it. A good actor like him should be able to identify when a film is this bad and he made a nice effort to capitalize on its supreme senselessness.
Misha's girlfriend is Abby (Leelee Sobieski), who is supportive of him after both of them agree to partake in a cosmetic reality TV show. That is until Misha becomes disgusted with his life, runs away to a remote land with acres of grass and cows, finds a bright red cow which he murders for no real reason, and then becomes cursed with the power to see those large, gelatinous demon-like creatures I mentioned earlier that protrude off the necks of innocent people - I think.
Dozens of subplots come forth here. One involving Max von Sydow's executive character seems like it is from another movie. He attempts to make "fat" the new "sexy," by revamping a burger joint and populating the town with pictures of overweight people in order to manipulate their senses to eat more. Again, I think.
The film's pacing is so hokey, unbalanced, incompetent, amateurish, and disoriented that at any point it feels like the film will break. Shots are disjointed into feeling out of place; one scene will be calm, the next will be completely chaotic. Random sex scenes between Misha and Abby take place for no apparent reason, including one scene where Abby changes in the car while Misha randomly watches another woman change in another car and apply lipstick. Some scenes are equipped with some of the most cloyingly robotic narration I have ever heard, not to mention, the film's technical aspects are strangely flawed. The picture switches between the normal 16:9 ratio (where the film takes up the entire screen) to 4:3 (where large black bars occupy a good fourth of the screen on opposite ends) for no reason at all. All of this is captured through some of the ugliest photography imaginable. The cherry on the sundae, if you will.
But what slaughters the film's attempt to make any reasonable point about advertising in the world today is the appallingly unsophisticated narrative that carelessly drags on for one-hundred and five minutes, never drumming up much besides frustration and indulgence. Its characters are undeveloped, its intentions are buried under the vacuous amount of unfinished, unexplained ideas, and its satirical element wears thin when we discover that its writers and directors, Jamie Bradshaw and Aleksandr Duleray, have nothing interesting to say about marketing and don't feel like making a competent picture but one gridlocked by its own banality.
Branded appeared in theaters with very little publicity (I recall one trailer prior to a film I saw earlier this year), and is likely to exit after only a week or so. Good riddance. The film is one of the most dreadful pictures I've seen in years, so robotic, unmoving, and coldly distant from its audience that it is incomparable to any other film I have seen this year or almost any other year. Its ambition to be a satire and a portrayal of shallow, empty-headed consumerism is crushed by its pompous direction, visual ugliness, horribly confused writing, and above all, its woeful marketing treatment that promise a completely different film than what is presented. Then again, after reading this review, don't you wonder how it could be efficiently marketed at all?
Starring: Ed Stoppard, Leelee Sobieski, Jeffrey Tambor, and Max von Sydow. Directed by: Jamie Bradshaw and Aleksandr Duleray.