Today’s movie is about a nerdy guy, with no social life, who spends too much time writing about movies on a website that nobody reads.
Today’s movie is Film Geek a super-low budget independent film from writer/director James Westby. This is a true indy, with not a single actor that I’ve ever seen in anything before. (Well, after this film Michelle Garner did appear as a contestant on The Amazing Race, but I didn’t recognize her here.) The lighting and cinematography are incredibly simple, but the writing is actually pretty clever.
The titular geek is Scotty Pelk (Melik Malkasian). Scotty works in a video store by day, and watches movies alone by night. Scotty has an encyclopedic knowledge of cinema, which you might think would be beneficial in a video store employee. Unfortunately, Scotty has no semblance of social skills, or ability to read other people. This leads him to annoying customers by berating them for not wanting the widescreen version of a movie, or being unfamiliar with obscure but influential filmmakers.
Outside of work Scotty tries occasionally to flirt with women he encounters, particularly his sexy neighbor Cindi (Garner), but if they’re even aware of his interest, they’re having none of it. In a chance encounter he succeeds in striking up a conversation with Niko (Tyler Gannon), a way out of his league art student, who shares an interest in some obscure filmmakers, (but, like, normal person interested.) She encourages him to consider expanding his interests a little bit. He shows up at her art show. She tries to make her ex-boyfriend jealous by saying Scotty is her new boyfriend. And from there we have a plot. (I’m going to leave it here, but I want to write about the film’s ending, so there will be some spoilers at the bottom.)
I really enjoyed Malkasian’s performance as Scotty. He really excelled, portraying the character’s unlimited enthusiasm for a limited subject, with and underlying note of sadness. The trap here, I think, would have been to make the Scotty’s enthusiasm for film seem disingenuous. I didn’t get that sense at all here. If I have one gripe about Scotty’s character it would be that he’s a bit too naïve about too many things. You’d think that in the course of watching and analyzing all those movies would have picked up at least a theoretical, or observational knowledge about things, but he freaks out about all kinds of things.
Overall, I really enjoyed this movie. Scotty can be a little grating at times (but that’s a plot point). Fortunately things move along pretty briskly. It helps that it’s only about seventy minutes long, any longer and I’d get sick of spending time with Scotty too. However, the film ends before it gets to that point. The ending is a little ambiguous and I’m sure that one’s opinion of the film will vary significantly depending on one’s interpretation of the final shot. For me, while it isn’t a particularly pretty movie, it is certainly Worth Seeing.
Ok now some SPOILERS.
Getting back to the plot for a moment. Late in the movie everything is going badly for Scotty, he hates his new job, Niko is back with her ex-boyfriend, his website still has zero hits, and he’s left pathetically jerking off in his sink, then the happy ending happens. Scotty’s phone rings and it’s the editor from the local newspaper who’s found Scotty’s website, and he wants to do a piece on it. One thing leads to another, and soon Scotty is a local celebrity, and an admired resource for other movie critics. He moves to a new address in a trendy neighborhood in Portland. In the crowning moment of greatness, he’s invited back to the video store where he used to work for an autograph; then Niko and her boyfriend, who she proceeds to dump, so she can reunite with Scotty.
Of course, as a viewer this has all come pretty easily, and it seems like some pretty shoddy writing. Scotty hasn’t grown, hasn’t changed, and he gets a happy ending out of nowhere. However, there’s one more shot in the movie.
Just as Scotty and Niko kiss, to the thunderous applause of everyone in the video store, the film cuts back to Scotty, standing in front of his sink in his same dumpy apartment. Everything from the newspaper editor’s call on has just been in Scotty’s fantasy. And the credits roll.
It’s really a great twist. Scotty Pelk, the guy who watches everything about movies but doesn’t learn anything about life from them doesn’t grow as a person. He doesn’t get a character arc, he just continues on existing. It’s this last shot that takes what seems like a movie with a character and nothing else, a movie that was destined to get a red rating from me and elevates it into a real solid Worth Seeing.
[Film Geek (2005) – Director: James Westby – Not Rated]