MOUTH TO MOUTH
Directed by Alison Murray
Artistic License Films
City Cinema’s Village East
Good art, be it painting, literary, film, or performance, shares a simple quality unaffected by form—it has a message. That message might be that reality is abstract, as in Picasso’s work, or that reality is all too real, like in De Sica’s “The Bicycle Thief.” However, even though it is good for art not to be pointless, sometimes the point is transparently obvious. Thus is the case in Alison Murray’s new film “Mouth to Mouth,” a nearly 90-minute treatise on a familiar message—cults are bad.
The films follows the decidedly misadventurous tribulations of one Shelly (Ellen Page), a skeptical, spoiled goth chick trotting through Europe, who abandons her mother in order to join S.P.A.R.K, a group of recovering homeless Methadone addicts organized into a cult. When not busy vomiting on each other, the cultists ride around in a very dark and spooky van. Why Shelly, who is made out to be one of those bright inquisitive teenagers, would choose a cult of junkies over her admittedly stupid but concerned mother is a question that the film answers to sad and hilarious effect. Like all teenage girls, she just wants to get her cherry popped... by a cult of Methadone addicts.
What ensues is a mostly senseless series of actions illustrating Sherry’s and the cult’s descent into the evils of communal living, in case anyone’s forgotten about Charlie and the Manson Family or David Koresh and the compound in Waco.
For all the silliness of the plot, there are a few moments to watch for. Maxwell McCabe-Lokos plays Sherry’s confidante and surrogate big brother with strange and relatable effect. His character, Mad Ax, is perhaps the craziest of the bunch, but as played by McCabe-Lokos, it’s his junkie lifestyle that allows him to recognize real evil. Indeed, his performance brings something that is sorely needed in many films as far out on the fringe as Murray’s—impulsiveness and wit. Page, who will soon be seen as a featured character in the next big movie of the year, “X-Men 3,” tries to do her best to carry the film; while she does show the tiniest hints of good acting in “Mouth,” it will still be a few years before she can make a movie great on her own.
“Mouth to Mouth” has all the trappings of a rushed film with its handheld style and grit in every shot—something Murray is obviously aiming for, in order to show us the way that cults can sweep up members. While true, the idea on which any film is founded somehow has to add life to the culture in which it is produced; “Mouth to Mouth” fails to see the situation in any new light, suggesting this particular idea did not need resuscitation.