The central character in Dave Schwep’s Broken Star is a young actress fallen from grace: a drug-addicted, manipulative monster. Markey Marlowe (Crazy, Stupid, Love’s Analeigh Tipton) – a character and name that sounds like it’s come right out of a 1940s film noir – is placed on house arrest, with her only company being reclusive landlord Daryl (Tyler Labine of Mountain Men), whose grandmother has recently passed away. Over time, Marlowe manipulates Daryl into attacking those who she feels wronged her.
A key point in Broken Star is Schwep’s voyeuristic nature: there are cameras everywhere throughout the house, allegedly and initially placed to keep an eye on his late grandmother. When Markey discovers them, the usual female objectification associated with voyeurism is inverted, as Marlowe takes advantage of it for her own personal revenge.
Although Broken Star has a few interesting commentaries on voyeurism, attention, and celebrity, it never completely succeeds at attaining the psychological complexity it strives for, and its questionable gender politics leaves it open to easy criticism (including the same critical gestures that were made towards, for example, Gone Girl). The performances by Tipton and Labine are noteworthy. Tipton succeeds at creating a hammy, attention-driven fallen star who, sometimes to the film’s detriment, comes off as cartoonishly villainous. Labine’s sad, lonely landlord comes off as more realistic and less heavy-handed, although both ultimately work with the film’s overall atmosphere.
Broken Star is hardly new territory, and combines familiar themes with the kind of complex aesthetic that is so familiar to independent psychological dramas. Despite this, the concept is generally well-executed and provides some interesting ideas on the gender dynamics at play in voyeurism.
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Mark Barber: @WorstCinephile