Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Milwaukee Film Fest 2014: Serial Daters Anonymous

I think I just had one of the most unsatisfying moviegoing experiences of my life. The disappointment is all the more poignant, since “Serial Daters Anonymous” was shot in Milwaukee, and it actually makes the city look good. I generally go easy on local films, even the ones that I dislike, for the simple fact that they're rarer, usually made on a shoestring budget, and one can tell that even the most atrocious of them involve quite a bit of time and love. But I suppose there's a first time for everything, and this is my first time finding a local movie that I despise.

It revolves around a familiar scenario: a woman who is disappointed with her love life. But Claire (Louise Linton) has better reason than most, after she learns at the altar no less, that her fiance cheated on her. With her sister. Ouch.

After she ditches her fiance at said altar, this inspires her to write the titular blog, where she seeks to expose her dates for the horrible men she believes they are. That's where the trouble starts, and where I am naturally bound by my position as critic to explain the (in this case many) ways the film errs in its mission. The trouble is where to begin.

First, there is Claire herself. Naturally, she is going to be abrasive and rather disillusioned after such a blow. But not only does writer-director Christopher Carson Emmons fail to write compelling female characters, it seems he continually misses the mark when it comes to the storytelling. The result is that Claire comes off as a spoiled, entitled daddy's girl (a word that rhymes with witch also comes to mind), while the men come off as well-meaning victims who suffer as a result of her judgmental, uncaring actions. Even her cheating fiance is depicted better than her. Worse, the inevitable love interest that just might make her stop hating men is certainly no catch, while the nice guy who should be her love interest is seemingly forgotten about, then used for a tacked-on, bizarre plot twist. Oh, and the sister that sleeps with the fiance? She is even more flippant about the act than he is, and the nature of Claire's relationship with her sister is never discussed, nor does her sister ever appear again. Nope, “Serial Daters Anonymous” is strictly about how Claire interacts with the men.

Then there's the bizarre slut-shaming in a movie where the heroine HAS NO SEX WHATSOEVER. But apparently, an interview where it kind of sounds like Claire sleeps with her dates is enough to warrant a scolding from her mother and the potential shame of her father.

Then there's the transitions, which feel rather bizarre, the lighting, the other characters, even her best friend, who stops sympathizing with her when it becomes inconvenient for her and her downright weird sexual misadventures, and...well, just the script in general. Every scene feels like a missed opportunity, especially the climax, were all the men she dated are gathered together in one room, but they are literally stripped of their ability to say a word.

There is only one good thing about “Serial Daters Anonymous,” and that is in the way it depicts Milwaukee itself. It actually makes this city out to be a large, bustling metropolis, and all the perks thereof, which is a welcome change of pace. But if you actually want to enjoy a (mostly) locally made movie, I'd recommend something like “The Amateur Monster Movie” or “Deliver This.” Both are up on YouTube for free, and offer a much better local movie experience.

Grade: D-

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