From the Head: Film Review

From the Head - H - 2013
Despite its claustrophobic setting and small-scale concerns, this low-key drama proves unexpectedly diverting.

George Griffith's debut feature is set entirely in the confines of a men's bathroom at a strip club.

It takes a certain amount of daring to make a film set entirely in the cramped confines of a men’s bathroom of a Times Square strip club, but that’s exactly what writer/director George Griffith has done with his debut feature, in which he also stars. Composed of ninety minutes of brief encounters between a bathroom attendant and a variety of customers and the occasional scantily clad stripper who pops in, the cutely titled From the Head manages to be reasonably diverting even as it proves inevitably minor in its impact.

The filmmaker/actor, who apparently spent several years toiling in the actual trenches of his film’s setting, certainly provides an undeniable authenticity to the proceedings. And his character, known only as Shoes, is interestingly enigmatic, subtly revealing an obvious canny intelligence that makes both his patrons and us wonder exactly why he’s been working in his undemanding profession for three years.

The film is most interesting for its accumulation of realistic details concerning Shoes’ interactions with his frequently drunk clientele. Removing a damning blonde hair from a man’s suit and advising another not to switch colognes so as avoid make his wife suspicious, he makes himself useful in ways far more important than simply turning on a faucet or passing out towels.

A few familiar faces, such as Matthew Lillard and Jon Polito, make fleeting appearances as a couple of the several dozen bathroom patrons who briefly pop in. They include such characters as a businessman who’s developed an unfortunate obsession with one of the dancers, a mentally impaired, 35-year-old virgin, and a stripper who chides Shoes for not having moved on to more rewarding pursuits. “You’re becoming a fixture,” she warns him.

Filled with telling details--from the men who leave without washing their hands to those who claim not to have any money for a tip--the film displays a verisimilitude that will likely leave male audience members contemplating their next encounter with an anonymous bathroom attendant. Featuring an impressively skillful deadpan performance by its writer/director and accomplished cinematography by Martin Matiasek that somehow manages to make the proceedings visually interesting despite the claustrophobic setting, From the Head is far more interesting than a film set entirely in a bathroom has a right to be.

Opens May 31 (Breaking Glass Pictures)

Production: From the Head

Cast: George Griffith, Matthew Lillard, Jon Polito, Ahna O’Reilly, Samantha Lemole, Jeffrey Dorhbos

Director/screenwriter: George Griffith

Producers: Jeffrey Doornbos, Russell Gray, Christopher Lemole, George Griffith

Executive producers: Lisa Oz, Tim Zajaros

Director of photography: Martin Matiasek

Editor: John Coniglio

Production designer: Scott Enge

Costume designer: Bette Adams

Not rated, 95 min.