Written and Directed by Deon Taylor
Most eyes this week will be on “Super Troopers 2” and Amy Schumer’s “I Feel Pretty” (see below). But it’s also another significant week for the Sacramento filmmaking community.
Recent theatrical films have included one set in Sacramento but shot elsewhere (“Brad’s Status”), an award-winning film set here and partially shot here (“Lady Bird”), one written by another ex-local (“Death Wish”), one about local heroes with a few local scenes (“The 15:17 to Paris”), and a blockbuster by a local alumnus (“Black Panther”). This week we got “Traffik” written and directed by local filmmaker Deon Taylor – set and shot entirely in and around Sacramento and utilizing local casting agents, extras, and crew.
That last part is important, not just because it hasn’t been done very often before – but because, according to the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), Taylor has 3-4 more projects slated for completion/release this year. We’ve had a great year for visibility but what Sacramento needs is an ongoing pipeline for local projects that can keep people working and busy.
“Traffic” is a thriller, built around fairly ordinary, decent characters who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. In that sense, it’s far scarier than classic horror films as it’s far easier to imagine oneself encountering a villainous stranger at a gas station, than a child-abducting monster clown. We know we’re surrounded by lucrative criminal activity and it stands to reason that, occasionally, good people will encounter bad people and see things they’d have been better off not seeing.
It’s a simple but effective premise, starring Paula Patton and Omar Epps as the couple whose getaway to a beautiful house in the Sierra foothills goes awfully wrong. It’s a bloody and violent film, not for the squeamish, but the various wounds and injuries showcase, for example, the great work of local makeup effects artist David Ainsworth of Alchemy FX. And sitting in the theater, watching familiar names scroll by, and knowing how prolific Deon Taylor is, is exciting – and good for Sacramento.
More mainstream and high profile but disappointing, is the aforementioned “I feel Pretty,” starring Amy Schumer, from two of the same writers as the equally problematic “How to be Single.” It’s one of those films that you know is leading to a payoff at the end, at which point the main character will realize how wrong they’ve been, but the problem is that the vast majority of the film is spent wallowing in the error in judgement. Schumer plays an employee of a cosmetics company, the kind of company that promotes ideals of feminine beauty that might suggest a balanced meal consists of two types of lettuce. She toils away anonymously in a basement office, running the online sales division, but dreams of sitting behind the front desk as the receptionist in the main office – reinforcing the idea that appearance and visibility is more of a measure of success than actual achievement. But she’s plagued by low self esteem, until a literal blow to the head causes her to think she’s been transformed into the head-turning beauty she’s always fixated on. And that’s essentially the problem – the story is about a non-skinny woman who only manages to see herself as inherently beautiful when a head injury causes her to be delusional. That she eventually snaps out of it, and succeeds despite being an insightful but awful employee, doesn’t manage to escape the unsympathetic nature of either the story or the character. Although it’s good for a few shallow laughs along the way.