Television writer Katherine Schlemmer makes her first splash as a filmmaker with The Death (and Life) of Carl Naardlinger. And if you think that name is even remotely funny, then Katherine is happy you bought a ticket for her film. If you don’t, you best mosey into the next theatre.
In Schlemmer’s absurdist comedy of happenstances, a man named Carl Naardlinger (Matt Baram) finds out that a stranger with the same name (comedian Mark Forward) has gone missing. Having been reminded of his mediocre life after celebrating his birthday, Carl decides to search for this unintentional namesake despite the wishes of his perturbed wife Pam (Grace Lynn Kung). The coincidental nature of the story develops more layers when “missing Carl’s” luggage is accidentally delivered to Carl’s doorstep, and Paula and Larry (“missing Carl’s” roomates) get involved with the impromptu search party. Pam gets swept up in the shenanigans when she’s convinced an offhand comment she made about her neighbour contributed to their sudden death.
At first, The Death (and Life) of Carl Naardlinger seems to be a farce about guilt starring characters who are so bored with their existence, they’re willing to jump feet first into any opportunity; even if that means being in a vulnerable, self-deprecating state. As Schlemmer’s silly sense of humour becomes more of a consistent quality in the narrative, the film ’s prime focus is to be as quirky as possible through deadpan delivery and the repetition of goofy-sounding names – this gets tiring very fast.
There’s a niche in Canadian culture for deadpan whim that seems to be more successful on short-form television or through episodic online content than through feature-length films. Considering how The Death (and Life) of Carl Naardlinger has the shiftless style of a low-rent web series, I feel that Katherine Schlemmer’s debut has been misunderstood. Not only is it a bad movie, it’s playing on the wrong platform.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie