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Dependent's Day, the first feature film from Michael David Lynch, is not at all what I wanted it to be. It is, in fact, a completely different beast, a beautiful, writhing, angry, sensational beast. It's not what I wanted, but it was entirely what I needed - a mirror, in a way, and even more so, a needle.
Cam is having a difficult period - he's not the bread-winner in his family, and is actually dependent on his girlfriend. As a guy who's been there, it can be tough, not only with the weight of societal norms holding you down, but the personal pressures that can come with being the ride-along. That can be a terribly difficult position, and it can drive you nuts. Cam is, in a word, determined, and if I was allotted another word, funny. He's smart, really smart, but he's also focused, and his dream and drive to be an actor leads him away from the role he really wants - to be THE MAN. I've been there, and not just in the ballpark, in that very seat on the third upper deck, looking down on where the real game is played. It's a tough view, and what Dependent's Day showed was so real, if a bit abstracted to make it work within world of Film. The 'throw it against the wall and see if it sticks' method of finding a path that allows you to come to your dream? Yeah, I've used it. The floating between things that aren't really what I want to be doing as a way to get towards what I DO want? I've done that more times than I care to admit. This movie became deeply personal because I knew what that was like, and that's where I have to talk about Joe Burke. He's amazing. Lynch described his performance as a 'tour-de-force' and he's not wrong. This is an easy role to mess up, to lose the nuance, the humanity, the honesty. He pulls it off, and the way he paces his delivery, the perfectly timed pauses, they perfectly give the film the ideal form to hang the entire movie on.
But it's not all him.
The cast is brilliant, and so obviously comfortable with one another and the scenario. There's a poker game in the film that has the feel of a regular game the director played in that they just happened to pop a camera in on one afternoon (and it wasn't!) and there's the interaction between Cam and his girlfriend which is so natural, and honest, and also a bit painful. I've been both of those figures, and that's not an easy place to be, on either side.
There will be a natural comparison to Arrested Development's Tobias Funke, and his dream of being an actor that runs through the entire series. Dependent's Day isn't merely a riff on that (even if Burke does have a David Cross-ian delivery at a few points in the picture) but an exploration of that idea in the light of a real human being who is not only good hearted, but smart enough to want to make the change in his life for the good of everyone, not just for his own damn self. And THAT is the needle I needed. The idea that some times, in those hard days, you're not gonna make it in the hunting-gathering sense, but you can always better yourself as a person, always move towards Nirvana as a Hippy ex-professor of mine would often say. Cam grows, at times against his will, and when you find yourself identifying with a character as strongly as I did with Cam, then you're being given hope. Hope in the form of a tough poke in the ass, but hope none the less.
Dependent's Day is a wonderful film. Really well-made, dark, funny, smartly-paced, and full of nuance and impact. It's the kind of film you want everyone to see.
You can find out more at http://dependentsday.com
Klaus at Gunpoint
A Film Journal dedicated to all film.A segment of Office Supply Publishing.