Dim the Fluorescents is a fast and furious masterclass in deadpan comedy. Its filmmaker, Daniel Warth, knows this and doesn’t miss an opportunity to make an uncomfortably honest comment about creative communities, or portray convoluted art – no matter how ridiculous it is – as believable impassioned labours of love.
Audrey and Lillian (Claire Armstrong and Naomi Skwarna) find an outlet for their love of theatre through corporate seminars. Audrey, a playwright, is given a theme (sexual harassment in the workplace, safety protocols, etc.) and spins a complex vignette for herself and Lillian, a hustling actress, to perform in offices. The business audiences are always receptive, which encourages the friends to stick with their unconventional careers. When their tentpole event about leadership in the workplace comes knocking on their door, they dedicate their lives to perfecting their show.
Taking inspiration from foreign absurdists and American mockumentaries by Christopher Guest, Dim the Fluorescents always assumes the audience understands the joke. With this trust secured, Warth and his stars focus intently on characterization (and the character’s characterization of the characters they portray at the seminars) – it’s a head trip that swings for the fences. While Dim the Fluorescents doesn’t need to be two hours, it’s unbudging willingness to stay true to original intentions for most of its bulky duration is very impressive.
Warth does, however, fly too close to the sun with his ambition during the final climactic act. The film’s sense of humour is abandoned to make room for an endeavour that invites raging emotions from its leads during their grand finale. This scene is expertly shot and acted, but the audience can’t help but notice the filmmaker/co-writer drinking his own Kool-Aid and losing touch of his own work.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie