Review: Mope (2019 Sundance Film Festival)

Title: Mope
Rating: NR
Director: Lucas Heyne
Starring: Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Kelly Sry, Brian Huskey
Runtime: 1 hr 45 mins

What It Is: Bottom-rung porn actors Steve Driver (Stewart-Jarrett) and Tom Dong (Sry) team up to try and make it big as famous porn stars. Passionate yet naive, the two get caught up in what turns out to be an extreme ball-busting production company led by the stingy and vulgar owner Eric (Huskey). As they attempt time and time again to star in more notable productions and gain traction in their careers, Driver and Dong’s relationship is tested by psychological strain, betrayal, and deep dark secrets.

What We Think: Go into this movie as cold as possible. I did and, whew boy, you are in for a wild ride. Perfectly shameless in its portrayal of the awkwardness, scrutiny, discrimination, sacrifice, horror, pain, abuse, and strangeness to be faced in the porn industry, it still manages to balance us out with moments of ridiculousness, hilariousity, and humanity. The cinematography ranges from good to pretty great. There are wonderful displays of situational humor and rewarding character moments. Though some of the writing and performances may seem a little off at times, I get the feeling that they were only on purpose due to the dedication to a certain (character’s) perspective, further explained for by watching the entire movie. Otherwise—Stewart-Jarrett and Sry are captivating as the oblivious, one-track-minded Driver and the practical nerd Dong. The story is pretty fun, though the pacing does slow down quite a bit in the middle parts to the film’s detriment. But you do want to stay for the ending. I’ll tell you that with confidence.

Our Grade: B+, This was definitely one of the standouts for me at the festival so far. It brings back the delight you might have felt back in our Boogie Nights days… and yet, there’s something much darker under the surface that you’ll have to slice out on your own. This manages to be energetic, likable, intense, and even a little terrifying. I highly recommend this strange, based-on-a-true-story story about a twisted Hollywood dream. But again—don’t do your research. Go in cold: trust me.

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Chai Simone Written by: