• The Hollywood Reporter on LinkedIn
  • Follow THR on Pinterest

Obselidia -- Film Review

The Bottom Line

Empty
Empty

Empty

More Sundance reviews

PARK CITY -- Neologisms and a quirky point of view aren't enough to save "Obselidia" from the obscurity that the film's central character obsessively dreads. While sometimes charming, Diane Bell's feature debut will likely face similar obsolescence after a respectable festival run, though the filmmaker herself may go on to bigger things.

In a quiet corner of Culver City, Calif., single, middle-aged George (Michael Piccirilli), haunted by acute pains of nostalgia, dutifully documents the disappearance of all types of ephemera, from consumer technology to cultural traditions and endangered species, for his "encyclopedia of obsolete things." When he's not working at the local library, George videotapes interviews with his sources on an old VHS camera and transcribes the recordings on a manual typewriter. It's a solitary existence, but George is single-mindedly devoted to preserving the recent record of human civilization.

After videotaping cute and curious Sophie (Gaynor Howe), a silent movie theater projectionist (surely a disappearing profession), he's surprised to find her on his doorstep shortly afterward, seeking a peek at his videotape archive. Their encounters inspire Sophie to coin the term "obselidia" for George's encyclopedia project.

Her persistent interest in the scheme, and George's transportation-challenged habits, lead Sophie drive him out to Death Valley seeking an interview with Lewis (Frank Hoyt Taylor), a doom-mongering former climate scientist and now a dedicated desert rat. The trio's ruminations on global warming, ecological catastrophe and death itself fill a long desert afternoon with an air of foreboding and later a hint of romance, despite George's belief that love is obsolete as well.

Bell's enthusiasm for her beloved film is clearly evident, particularly in carefully constructed scenes in George's cramped office (evocatively accessorized with various obsolete objects by production designer Alicia Marquez) and lyrical non-dialogue sequences depicting George's compulsive thought processes. When the film morphs into a road movie, Bell and cinematographer Zak Mulligan seem more unsure of where to place the camera in exterior settings, as compositions become more mundane.

A greater shortcoming is Bell's script, featuring dialogue that is too on-the-nose, focusing on thoughts and ideas rather than emotions and subtext. George's character is so clueless and disconnected, it's difficult to believe many people would take an interest in him, much less an attractive woman like Sophie who clearly has other options. Piccirilli plays George with suitable awkwardness against Howe's free-spirited Sophie, but their relationship never credibly gels.

Notwithstanding these limitations, Bell's whimsical aesthetic and affinity for unique characters could serve her well in the future if "Obselidia" is well-received on the festival circuit or ultimately strikes a DVD deal.

Venue: Sundance Film Festival
Production: A Humble Films Production
Cast: Michael Piccirilli, Gaynor Howe, Frank Hoyt Taylor, Chris Byrne, Kim Beuche
Director: Diane Bell
Screenwriter: Diane Bell
Producers: Chris Byrne, Matthew Medlin
Executive Producers: Gary Morris, Dave McWhinnie
Director of photography: Zak Mulligan
Production designer: Alicia Marquez
Music: Liam Howe
Costumes: Line Aseltine
Editor: John-Michael Powell
Sales: Submarine Entertainment
No Rating, 96 minutes