Out of all the dramedies I can remember, Moments of Clarity has the murkiest line separating what’s supposed to be funny and what’s supposed to be taken seriously. It’s the most uncomfortable moviegoing experience of 2016.
I assume the film’s director Stev Elam would defend his unconventional movie by saying that Moments of Clarity is a dark comedy – the press notes list it under this sub-genre. The massive problem with Elam’s film is that too much of it is seemingly cut and dry. The performances, along with the screenplay written by Christian Lloyd and Kristin Wallace (who also stars as the leading lady, Claire), don’t allow enough wiggle room for amusement during misfortune. When we see a character struggle, their hurt is sobering. When a character is being quirky and chewing the scenery, their passion behind their motivations is too sincere for us to chortle at. Everything is so ill-defined, the audience can’t help but stare blankly at the screen and wiggle in their seat.
I watched most of the movie behind clasped hands of embarrassment. It all started with Wallace’s portrayal of Claire, a woman who has been homeschooled and brought up by a severe agoraphobic. Claire’s allowed to leave the house, but her perception of life is equal to an immature grade-schooler. Wallace, however, gives a performance that’s a cross between a happy-go-lucky optimist and someone suffering from a genuine mental disability. Her comic relief is horribly miscalculated, and enters a creepy area when she starts fantasizing about her church’s pastor in the buff. It feels like the characterization for Claire – along with other broken roles – has been cooked up in an improv class before necessary workshopping.
Claire hits the road with moody and misunderstood neighbour Danielle (Lyndsy Fonseca, the couch-bound daughter on CBS’ long-running How I Met Your Mother) in search of a vintage film camera, which then turns into a trip of self-discovery as they head to an anticipated youth ministry jamboree and meet different people on their travels (including Claire’s estranged grandparents at a new age group home). Meanwhile, Claire’s mother worries, breaks down into a sobbing mess, and tries to track down her daughter with the help of Danielle’s father (the previously mentioned pastor).
Moments of Clarity is brutally eccentric to a painful degree. On top of the awkward humour and the conflicting drama, audiences must endure a whim-filled musical score, cringe-inducing sexual nature (including a scene where a convenience store clerk makes Claire deep throat a meat stick), and idiotic enabling towards characters who have taken the wheel and are driving the story off of a cliff.
Moments of Clarity also stars Eric Roberts in a ridiculous role. Considering the actor’s eclectic work, that says a lot. Here, Roberts plays a former moustached porn star who teaches Claire how to crack eggs. The Human Centipede III is no longer the seediest flick on Eric Roberts’ résumé.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie