Saturday, October 1, 2016

Movie Appraisal: Butterfly Dreaming (2008)

"Ordinary representation of stable thoughts"

So, first of all, I couldn't even find the picture of my DVD box cover art anywhere online. I wanted to include the specific art for my version of the film, but I must own the only copy of it or something. Very weird. Anyway, getting that odd bit of trivia out of the way, let's get this movie started.  I'm hoping for a trippy and creepy movie with some psychological twists. But let's see...

Butterfly Dreaming  is directed, written, and produced by Rufus Williams, who only has one other credit to his name as far as I can tell. I kept thinking that this movie has another name somewhere along the line, that the version I have is named Butterfly Dreaming, but the "real name" of the movie was Man Who Falls Down Stairs  Amusingly or Chickens: You Can't Keep 'Em Caged. But no, this is the only title of the movie I can find.

I'm being a bit silly with my last sentence, but I'm having a very hard time finding anything out about this movie. I've seen two reviews online. One is glowing. The other is extremely negative. And nothing else at all. This is weird. Reviews of movies exist everywhere. And this being an American movie, I would have thought somebody who reviews indie horror films would have scooped this up and talked about it, especially owing to how readily available I thought it was.

My inability to find all that much about the movie really makes me that much more interested in the film itself. Why is nobody talking about it? I found it easily (and cheaply) enough. Why does it have fewer reviews than tiny budgeted obscure Japanese horror movies that nobody but like five people in the US has even heard of? I don't have answers, but my questions will linger.

I brought up the DVD box art before because my specific copy of the movie says on the cover: "For fans of Memento and Mulholland Dr." These two movies are extremely different types of films with only pieces of the filming style being even somewhat similar. Memento (which is an okay, but extremely over-hyped noir-ish thriller movie) and Mulholland Drive (which is nothing like Memento with more of a psychological mystery feel, with it being David Lynch and everything) are weird movies to have people be huge fans of. This whole thing intrigues me though. How does a movie hit a middle ground between those two very different films?

We'll see if it does, I suppose.

The movie starts off with some mediocre music over an interesting credit sequence. Not a terrible start. And then the movie itself hits. My first thought is, "Was this actually made in 2008? It looks like an early 1990s film." I'm not sure if this is a good or bad start. And this will be a theme going forward.

The movie stars Andrew Bowen as Rob Pollack. He is our main character whether we like him or not. I'm still unsure of what to think about his performance. It lies somewhere between extremely subtle and over the top. But the character of Rob is a good one. While not a character one can relate to, the performance is extremely genuine. I'm just unsure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

The movie skips around a greta deal of the time. We skip from one time period to another with no real moment in between. Flashbacks happen throughout scenes. And some scenes go right from reality to dreams or vice versa. By the end of the film reality and fiction have blended together to the point that there is no longer a dividing line anymore. I have no idea what ended up true and what ended up completely made up dream reality.

My personal interpretation is one that requires the end of the movie to explain. So, if you don't want spoilers, don't read on.

I think that the whole movie was an amalgamation dream after Rob got into a car crash. I think the passenger was obscured and never truly shown at the end of the movie because the movie itself wanted to be vague about just how much of the movie did or did not happen. I found the move somewhat clever, and I hope I'm not just missing something obvious in the meanwhile, reading deeply into pieces of the film that just aren't there.

Officer Lowry appearing multiple times in the film before he is "formally" introduced in the ending, kind of helps me with my interpretation, but that's about it. If I'm reading the movie correctly, it would be similar to Stay and Jacob's Ladder, but is probably most similar to something somewhere between Memento and Mulholland Drive-

-well, fuck-

Rufus Williams pulled it off, didn't he? This movie is the perfect weird blend of those movies. It never gets as noir-y as Memento, nor as logical. And it certainly never gets as weird and depressing as Mulholland Drive. But it does a good job at walking a tight middle road between the two. I'm impressed for the most part. I was not expecting that.

Anyway, the movie is about a man (Rob) whose wife has just died in a car accident. He is deeply in debt, cheating on his wife, and is losing track of reality with some severe memory issues. The whole movie kind of plays out as a psychological way of interpreting his life and his relationship with his wife. He has deep-seeded guilt that has left him both emotionally stunted and absolutely paranoid for no reason.

The emotionally-stunted comment comes from the death of the chicken. He never truly grieves for his wife. There are no tears shed, no true sadness over the death of someone he promised to love. Instead everything about his wife Katrina is shown and interpreted through his guilty conscience. He doesn't want Katrina's things moved (as shown with her toothbrush). He wants to blame himself for her death (even though he was nowhere close to her when she died). His debt and cheating cost them their relationship, but it also seems to have cost him his own mind.

Most of the movie is just that, collections of scenes that don't always make sense together (especially in the beginning of the movie) that all add up to a single revelation that we never really see as a viewing audience. Now, I like movies like this, but I can definitely understand when somebody doesn't. It makes the whole movie into this weird otherworldly story, which, in the end, may have very little to do with anything.

So, that's about it with the plot. The only other thing that I enjoyed was the main character of Rob starts running down a variety of stairs towards the end of the movie, Eventually he falls down one of these stairs. The main character running and falling down stairs may be the best part of this movie. It's just humorous in a very stupid way. Even though him falling down is supposed to be handled seriously, it just looks so silly. But that's just my opinion. I'm probably being mean.

Dr. Timothy Baldrica played by James McDaniel is a highlight of the movie. The rest of the actors vary only a small amount in how well they act in any given scene. I suppose you can say that I wasn't impressed with the rest of the actors at all. But none of them were terrible either. James McDaniel did a good job at both being very slightly antagonistic while being amusing and a bit of a straight man all at the same time. It was pretty good in general.

Okay, I think the last thing I have to mention is that this movie, at times, feels very similar to Secret Window, the Johnny Depp movie based on a Stephen King novella. I think it's mostly Lowry that gives me that impression. His odd words and personality, as well as the main character focusing his annoyance at this character kind of hits the same beats as Secret Window. But maybe I'm the crazy one here.

I wouldn't call this a horror movie per se. It's more psychological with some heavy mystery vibes thrown into the mix. But it does have a few somewhat unsettling moments, mostly involving Rob staring. Would I recommend it? Eh. It's better than its budget and resources should have allowed it to be. It can be compared to gaints while not being a giant at all itself. That's not a terrible thing.

It's a movie that plays around its limited budget in clever ways. Even the acting, which isn't always great, works well for the film's dreamlike quality at times. Hell, I liked it all right. While not a perfect movie, what with the hilarity of Andrew Bowen running down stairs like a madman, cinematography that looks like it happened twenty-five years ago, and odd acting from some of the actors, it still is pretty solid. I would say I recommend it with a caveat. If you do not like some of the movies I've mentioned earlier in this review, you should probably stay far away from this one. Other than that, try it out. It's a decent indie film that plays with reality in an interesting way.

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