Rid of Me: Film Review

Rid of Me Poster - P 2011

Rid of Me Poster - P 2011

Unconvincing tale of self-empowerment has attitude and anxiety but nothing underneath.

A black comedy that comes off simply as dark.

A grungy tale of post-divorce rebirth in which the cure looks about as unpleasant as the illness, James Westby's Rid of Me offers an acting showcase for co-producer Katie O'Grady but sets her character in a thinly painted world with straw-man antagonists. Commercial potential is dim for its single-screen NYC booking.

The pic's meant as a black comedy, but you'd have to read the press notes to know that. Most viewers will read it as a morose character study whose aspirations are closer to psychological horror than comedy, even if gestures in that direction -- portentous closeups, ominous musical cues -- aren't matched by other production values, like its flatly undramatic lighting and set design.

O'Grady plays Meris, a devoted wife whose husband Mitch must return to his old hometown when a business venture fails. There he reconnects with a tight-knit circle of fratboyish bros and their Stepford wives, none of whom show any empathy for Maris's shyness -- and why would they, with Westby's scenario such a cartoon illustration of social anxiety disorder, littered with unbelievable gaffes?

Maris travels through a goth-y heart of darkness after her divorce, acting out in some revolting ways best not described here. Though set in the Pacific Northwest and sporting a musician in the cast (Everclear's Art Alexakis shouldn't quit his day job), Rid of Me's take on riot-grrrl punk isn't nearly potent enough to justify the title's appropriation of PJ Harvey's landmark record: Neither its depiction of the world of squares nor its embrace of rule-flouting self-affirmation rings true, so the inevitable happy ending offers little joy. 

Opens: Nov. 18 (Phase 4 / Submarine)
Production Companies: Alcove Productions, Parkwood East Film Company
Cast: Katie O'Grady, John Keyser, Theresa Russell, Storm Large, Orianna Herrman, Ritah Parrish, Art Alexakis, John Breen, Morgan Hobart
Director-screenwriter-director of photography-editor: James Westby
Producers: James Westby, Katie O'Grady
Production designer: Eric Sellers
Music: Jason Wells
Costume designer: Alisha Georgianna
No rating, 88 minutes