King Kelly: Film Review

Cynical sexploitation neither thrills nor entertains.

Andrew Neel's supposed inquiry into the side effects of social media produces no insights.

Someday in the near future, a resourceful indie filmmaker will shoot a feature using nothing but smartphones (or iPads, or police car dash-cams, or Dick Tracy two-way satellite watches) and find this fact unremarkable. The words "made entirely from camera-phone footage" will not appear in press materials, lest they distract from the story at hand; the film will not claim to offer "a sensational journey through hedonistic American youth culture and the YouTube generation."

Andrew Neel's King Kelly is not that movie. And "the YouTube generation," whoever they are, should consider suing for libel.

When Neel surveys America's twentysomething population, he sees nothing but morons and amoral narcissists. His title character (Louisa Krause) still lives at home, making pocket money by running a sex-webcam business out of her bedroom; best friend Jordan (Libby Woodbridge), who hangs on Kelly's every "omigod," thinks her plans to start her own porn website are just awesome.

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Anyone who's spent more than five minutes online knows the internet is full of exhibitionists. But nothing in Mike Roberts's script suggests that he knows a thing about such people or is at all curious to understand them. Instead he and Neel use the lurid elements of this lifestyle as sexploitation bait in a never-convincing tale of stolen drugs, corrupt cops and the perils of Staten Island. The first half of the movie seems to have been made up as the cameras rolled; things get a little more structured, if not more credible, with the arrival of a state trooper (Roderick Hill) who agrees to help recover Kelly's narcotics in return for sex.

The good news in King Kelly is that, after years of indies shot on ugly, low-grade consumer video, the image quality obtained from an iPhone is more than acceptable. Sadly, this film's POV conceit -- in which all scenes are shot by the characters, whether they have a plausible reason to hold the camera up or not -- quickly becomes as grating as Kelly herself.

Opens: Friday, November 30 (GoDigital Media Group)

Production Company: SeeThink Films

Cast: Louisa Krause, Libby Woodbridge, Roderick Hill, Will Brill, Joe Reiver, Jonny Orsini

Director: Andrew Neel

Screenwriter: Mike Roberts

Producers: Andrew D. Corkin, Luke Meyer, Ethan Palmer, Tom Davis

Executive producers: Laura Heberton, John David, Susan Shopmaker, David F. Schwartz

Director of photography: Ethan Palmer

Production designer: Annie Simeone

Music: Jonn Ollsin, Kim Krans

Costume designer: Jesse Huber

Editor: Brad Turner

No rating, 86 minutes