SLIFF 2017 Review – DIM THE FLUORESCENTS
DIM THE FLUORESCENTS screens Tuesday, Nov. 7 at 9:30pm and Sunday, Nov. 12 at 8:00pm as part of this year’s St. Louis International Film Festival Both screenings are at The Plaza Frontenac Cinema (210 Plaza Frontenac St. Louis , MO 63131). Ticket information for the 11/7 screening can be found HERE. Ticket information for the 11/12 screening can be found HERE.
Struggling actor Audrey (Claire Armstrong) and aspiring playwright Lillian (Naomi Skwarna) pour all of their creative energy into the only paying work they can find: corporate role-playing demonstrations. When they book the biggest gig of their careers at a hotel conference, work commences on their most ambitious production to date, and the ensuing tensions threaten to derail both the production and their friendship. As wryly funny as it is unexpectedly poignant, “Dim the Fluorescents” — winner of the Grand Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature at the Slamdance Film Festival — is a one-of-a-kind portrait of the artistic life in the unlikeliest of settings. “‘Dim the Fluorescents’ is the kind of dynamic, entertaining debut feature that hopefully puts its cast and crew on the map,” says the Film Stage. “Director Daniel Warth and co-writer Miles Barstead have put together a film that crackles with energy…. It’s a film about the struggle of making a living in the creative arts that’s bursting with creativity, zig-zagging from one tone, style, or form to the next at a moment’s notice.”
Daniel Warth’s Dim The Fluorescents may just be the best film you will see at the film festival. On one hand that might sound declarative, on the other dismissive of the other great films of the festival including Black Cop and My Entire High School SInking into the Sea, but it is quite difficult to imagine there being a more affecting and well-crafted work as Warth’s exploration of depression, artistry, and love. The last ten minutes are enough to leave one speechless, a culmination of all the raw emotions that the film has been poking around, suddenly coming up to the surface in a grandstanding and perfectly scathing sequence. Much like the rest of the film, the lifeblood of this sequence is the two perfect actresses at the center of the production.
Dim The Fluorescents is about a playwright, Lillian, and her roommate Audrey, an actress. Together they for the best acting scenario team, going around to companies on HR days and crafting masterful interludes about leadership, sexual harassment, and accidents in the workplace. They both want to be more though, but for some reason seem to be working against themselves, dependent on both each other, but also the comfortable life they live.
It is in these character dynamics that Dim The Fluorescents thrives. The actresses playing the two leads here Claire Armstrong (Audrey) and Naomi Skwarna (Lillian) are so impressive that they rachet you into your seat and force you to experience the consistently engaging and tragically sublime emotions of the piece. Much like Black Cop, the filmmakers seem to understand that while the naturalistic acting that filmmaking uses can be easily used to capture the more subtle emotions that can be found in the mundane way that people act around each other, sometimes the more explicit acting that can be found in the theatre can be useful in the creation of dramatic crescendo and crescendo this film does. As mentioned before, the last ten minutes are a daze, an acting tour de force that leaves you so numbed up in astonishment that there’s hardly any doubt that it won’t be one of the headlining acting moments of the year. If the Oscars even dared consider a film like Dim The Fluorescents it’d be difficult to imagine any other actresses other than Armstrong and Skwarna winning the top prize. They, along with a great script by Miles Barstead and Daniel Warth, pummel you into a sobbing mess. I’ve seen the film twice and both times I have been left utterly amazed.
Dim The Fluorescents is just about as honest, emotionally, of a film as one can find about trying to be an artist, populated by what seem to be some of the best artists working today. It is an utterly wonderful, comedic, crushing, gorgeous experience, one that this critic hopes you don’t miss out on.