SUCCESSFUL ALCOHOLICS (2010) - Jordan Vogt-Roberts
I was pleasantly surprised by this short film’s dark, honest edge. It started out somewhat funny, but it then appropriately tackled the heft and seriousness of the protagonists’ addictions, and the negative impact it has on their relationship. In seeing their lives somewhat spiral when they lack liquor and are left to their own truthful devices, it’s quite sad, and doesn’t sugar-coat any of it, maybe with the exception of some well placed, non-intrusive bits of humor. It’s not an easy short film to watch, but that just adds to the merit behind it. The uncomfortable truth behind the humor and drama present are really well expressed via performances and a harsh script. The only issue I hold with it is that I wish there was more, as what we have is nothing but fascinating.
Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ direction is loose and simple, until the main couple starts to get a bit chaotic in looking for liquor and dealing with each other. The camerawork and pacing turns hectic, well-matching the uncomfortably dark nature of the situations. Montages and even singular moments of discussion have a strange flashiness to them, but the usage of such doesn’t scream fun. Rather, it well highlights the harsh realities we’re observing. The black comedy chord is struck correctly and impressively. I suppose it was strange that the score used is straight from Little Miss Sunshine, but that awareness aside, the music worked quite well in a tonal juxtaposition sense.
I’ve always trusted Lizzy Caplan as a capable actress, always coming through in delivering strong performances. Her role in Party Down especially impressed me, and her performance here pays off in a similarly humorous but honest and tragic way. To her side is an even more impressive TJ Miller, who I was pleasantly surprised to see was capable of pulling off drama. His rambly demeanor and sense of humor works well, but also applies well to his somewhat denial filled character. As a man who is convinced that his slowly collapsing lifestyle is actually working for him and the woman he loves, he’s quite a depressing character to observe, and TJ uses his humor to humanize him as much as genuine acting does. His realistic delivery of anger and humor are unsettling, and when he shows hints of genuine care, it makes the role all the more tragic, and the performance even more impressive. Together, the couple’s chemistry works through good and bad times, and never ceases to fascinate.
What I find most interesting is that the script is by TJ Miller. TJ is a man that never takes things too seriously, based on practically all creative works he undergoes. While it seems like the film had a lot of improvisation in it, whether the dialogue was written or not, it’s still impressive knowing that TJ wrote such a willingly serious piece. Sure, there are some good bits of humor here and there, but a lot of it mixes well with the dark tone, and not to mention, the entire thing is actually quite depressing. I give kudos to the man, as it shows some serious ability as a storyteller. The fact he went this far and took it somewhat seriously throughout not only pays off well for the story, but gives credence to the versatility within the man’s possibly more expansive than expected talent.
I’m really curious on if Miller and crew here would be interested in making something bigger than this, but in a similar vein. Honestly, I think they could pull something very special off. Even with some strong comedy personalities present like Nick Kroll, Matt Braunger, Nick Thune, and Tony Hale, they all contribute appropriately to the film’s overall tone. A full length feature in a similarly dark dramedy voice could be really good if taken as seriously as it was here. We could at least trust that the humor, serious or not, would still be strong and intact, as it’s clear that these guys really know what they’re doing. I’m just glad that they’re appearing to be entirely capable in such a bigger way, as well, and I can’t wait to see what else they could pull off.