I’ve mentioned that seeing films without really know much of what they’re about is one of my favorite part of a festival, right? RIGHT? Well let me remind you that one of my favorite parts of going to a festival is watching something I don’t really know much about. In the case of Faults, I read something in a blurb about a daughter being involved with a cult and–YEAH, YOU’RE RIGHT, THAT’S ALL IT TOOK! I fucking love me some cults. This film wasn’t billed as a horror movie nor was it involved in the Midnights program, I knew that Faults would be more similar to something like Sound of My Voice or Martha Marcy May Marlene. I can totally get behind both of those movies, so I was pretty excited for Faults, but unfortunately left feeling a little underwhelmed.
After a rough divorce that has left him without any money or even the right to his most successful book, Ansel (Leland Orser) has to resort to touring the country with a less successful book giving seminars about cults and brainwashing. He’s approached at a seminar twice, first by someone threatening him for how Ansel ruined his family and secondly by two parents who think their daughter has been brainwashed. Considering how much money he still owes to someone for helping him publish his unsuccessful book and that morning had rooted through trash to get food, Ansel agrees to help these parents with their daughter. Once Ansel detains Claire (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to start de-programming her, everything seems to be running smoothly. However, the more time Ansel spends with Claire the more he starts to doubt she’s actually brainwashed and thinks maybe she’s right to believe all of the things she claims and maybe there is something to this “cult” after all.
Before we get any further, can we just talk about how awesome Leland Orser is? You might not know the name, but I’m sure you’ve seen Se7en, Taken, Alien: Resurrection and Daredevil. Granted, he normally plays a neurotic/frantic/just fucked a hooker with a machete type of role, but you know you’ll see an entertaining performance once he pops up on-screen. Getting to see him take top billing in this film while playing a someone familiar character we’ve seen him play before but with more subtlety and a richer backstory was great. Even though your initial reaction is to laugh at a guy arguing with a diner manager for free food, possibly because it’s kind of funny and possibly because we’ve seen Orser as comedic relief, but his desperation in this role is crushing. Winstead is also quite good as the despondent daughter who might not be the real victim. They both did subtlety very well.
Not knowing whether or not you should be laughing ended up being the reason why I ultimately couldn’t get too into the film. Some of the opening scenes had the look and humor of a Quentin Dupieux film in its surrealism and soft lighting. This set me up to see a clever and silly film, and the peculiar characters and wacky situations early on only strengthened that mindset. As the film progressed, the humor heightened along with the mysteriousness of this “cult” that Claire was involved in, but somewhere towards the end of the second act, everything just kind of plateaued. This isn’t to say that the film wasn’t enjoyable, as it certainly was, but I felt like the end of the movie left me feeling a little unsatisfied. With Faults being the first feature from writer/director Riley Stearns, I’m definitely going to be keeping my eye on his future projects, but this film just ends up in that category of “good, but not my thing”.
Wolfman Moon Scale