Stash: Porn-Be-Gone!By Frederik Sisa @ 1:00 PM December 18, 2009
That friend to low-budget filmmakers everywhere, the mockumentary format, provides fertile soil for reality-based concepts rooted in the simple technique of a camera crew following people around. The trick lies in sowing a premise that is clever enough to take root and grow into something more than a gimmick. Fortunately, writer-director Jay Bonansinga hits on a quirky premise in “Stash” that is outlandish enough to be taken seriously — like a so-strange-it-must-be-true blip in the weird news section. And so we have Jimmy Fox (King), an entrepreneur who elected not to follow up on a degree of medieval arts history from an obscure college but to provide, instead, a service one could imagine a lot of men would need. Along with his associate Bobby (Clinger), the film’s stand-in for a Steve Buscemi persona, Jimmy contracts with clients to enter their homes after their death to remove any hidden stashes of pornography before wives, mothers or family can be traumatized by their discovery.
With a premise like this, the mockumentary could go in any number of directions. But while the private sex lives of Discreet Removals’ clients would make easy fodder for comedy, Bonansinga – by way of the film’s fictional director and camera man — keeps the camera focused on Jimmy Fox himself, particularly on the effect the business has on his relationship with wife Alice. Naturally, she is none too pleased with the enterprise, which comes away sleazed from contact with the sleazy habits of men. Yet there really is the underlying question about the need to hide pornography, a surrogate for the notion of hiding sex. There’s a bit of a joke in the sort of clients who use the services of Discreet Removals — a scene involving a rabbi is especially delicious in its squirm-inducing hilarity — but the joke takes on a bit of bitterness when considered in the light of the paradoxical considerations of sex in mainstream culture. Tangential but not irrelevant dramedy comes from couples counseling and background on Jimmy involving a fictitious sex-addiction recovery group called Penis Keepers. Zany, perhaps, but disturbingly plausible.
Contributing to Jimmy’s up-and-down drama with his wife are complications that flirt with black comedy without digging too deep a grave for the film. A mysterious client who contracts with Discreet Removals to recover and dispose of items that aren’t, strictly speaking, pornography provokes an outbreak of obsession in Jimmy in which imagination outpaces his powers of deductive reasoning. The consequences are, predictably, comically bad and certainly weird. How it all plays out, underlying a certain sweetness to the film, takes an almost clichéd critique of hypocrisy and satirizes it to great effect thanks to a terrific performance by Tim Kazurinsky as a high-powered lawyer who also happens to be Jimmy’s disapproving father-in-law. Final verdict: Jay Bonansinga doesn’t let his premise down, either as writer or director, and this provocative little film offers a sly commentary, both critical and affectionate, of our porn-consuming culture.
Entertainment: ** (out of two)
Craft: ** (out of two)
Stash. Written and directed by Jay Bonansinga. Starring Brian King, Mary Kay Cook, Will Clinger, Tim Kazurinsky, Marilyn Chambers. 80 minutes. Not rated, but contains nudity and sexual content. For distribution information, visit Echelon Studios at www.echelonstudios.us
Frédérik invites you to discuss “Stash” and read more reviews at his blog, www.inkandashes.net