CHAINED FOR LIFE
Building on the promise of his hallucinogenic debut Go Down Death, filmmaker Aaron Schimberg delivers another brilliantly oddball, acerbically funny foray into gonzo surrealism. In a deft tragicomic performance, Jess Weixler (Teeth) plays Mabel, a movie star “slumming it” in an outré art-horror film being shot in a semi-abandoned hospital. Cast opposite her is Rosenthal (Under the Skin’s Adam Pearson), a gentle-natured young man with a severe facial deformity. As their relationship evolves both on and offscreen, Schimberg raises provocative questions about cinematic notions of beauty, representation, and exploitation. Tod Browning crossed with Robert Altman crossed with David Lynch only begins to describe something this startlingly original and deeply felt.
There is something so extraordinary about this film. Not only does it ooze charm, but it’s a comment about representation in Hollywood. The dialogue is equal parts tongue in cheek as it is completely serious. It has a very indie cinematography style, as well. The script is completely engrossing, start to finish. Each film homage tucked inside Aaron Schimberg’s film is carefully crafted. A film within a film within a film, there are moments that feel mind-blowingly meta. The lines between fantasy and reality are often blurred creating an effect on the audience that is hypnotizing.
Jess Weixler easily represents us as the audience. Her sincerity and ability to relate on an emotional level are super refreshing. Her performance feels natural and grounded. Chained for Life also sees the return of Charlie Korsmo ( a childhood crush since Dick Tracy) as the eccentric Director. The level of commitment to this character makes me miss him on-screen all the more. And now we come to our leading man, Adam Pearson. I am completely obsessed with this man. He is phenomenal. I cannot remember the last time a performance felt less like a performance and just simply a documentary. He is mesmerizing and I implore more writers and directors to seek him out and create content for him. The world needs it. Giving voice to those who are almost always exploited for their unique appearance, Chained For Life is a special opportunity to explore inclusiveness, not just in film, but every day.