In the British thriller film The Audition, which is set in the year 2022, a young actor must complete a series of online tests in order to ensure the survival of those around him.
When you’re cooking a meal but haven’t fully mastered your craft, it’s easy to throw in a few too many ingredients. Why not combine carrots, paprika, and lemon juice? If you haven’t fully mastered your craft, it’s easy to over-complicate things. Put it all in! This lack of focus frequently results in dishes that are a little disjointed. After all, food is about the finished product, so the ingredients you use, as well as those you leave out, are critical to the final result of a dish and your enjoyment of it.
“The Audition” is what happens when you disregard all that in favor of throwing it all in the pot. This is a film that tries to tackle more than a lot in its almost 2-hour runtime, and the result is a too-heavy, overly-seasoned mess of a film. And worse yet, it’s all empty calories. This may sound like a joke, but I truly mean it when I say this film is empty, despite its admittedly valiant efforts.
The Audition, Bizhan M. Tong’s feature-length directorial debut, stars Kevin Leslie as Larry Boyle, an aspiring actor and alt-right media influencer, and shows how the titular audition he has at the start of the film weaves into an ever-growing, always confusing web of mystery. Friends get killed, tragic backstories are revealed, new characters are introduced constantly, and there’s at least one fake-out death. On top of that, there are themes of morality, the pursuit of fame, political correctness, jealousy over someone else’s success, pandemic isolation, etc., etc. See what I mean when I say the pot is full?
This is a movie that makes an effort to draw from a wide variety of other forms of existing media. The story is delivered through computer displays and video conversations in a manner that is reminiscent of Unfriended, particularly Searching, which I’d suppose played a significant role in the development of this film. The character of Larry Boyle brings to mind Ethan Suplee’s role in The Hunt, a film that deals with comparable social and political problems, but in a more tongue-in-cheek manner. The Hunt is an example of a movie that explores these issues. It makes an attempt to be as cryptic and weighty as my favorite episode of Black Mirror, which is called “Shut Up and Dance.” Like that episode, this one is a disturbing thriller that builds up to a terrifying conclusion.
Unlike Shut Up and Dance, however, Larry is not a particularly likable or sympathetic character, even before you fully realize who he really is. Granted, I don’t know if he’s designed to be considering his ultimate fate, but regardless, that leads to a long movie where many audience members will have trouble rooting for or caring about the character going through these events in any way. His (and everyone else’s) dialogue is adequate at best and fumbles and meanders at its worst. When your movie is almost entirely just video and phone calls, the dialogue needs to be top-notch to keep your audience engaged. Larry’s incompetence and the other characters’ lack of enthusiasm, on the other hand, frustrated me.
Perhaps the most egregious offense is that, because The Audition attempts to address larger political issues, there are montages featuring footage of riots, protests, and police brutality. A short clip from George Floyd’s murder is shown near the end of the film. I have no problem with movies depicting real-life events or forcing us to confront uncomfortable truths. That is why there is art. I’d guess that was part of the thinking behind including it. However, being surrounded by pseudo-intellectual, anti-woke, centrist gibble-gabble that goes nowhere and says nothing feels particularly insensitive and borderline pompous. It’s unusual for me to have an issue with something like this in a film, but I thought it was worth mentioning due to its serious nature.
Sadly, I can’t recommend The Audition in the slightest. Any of the films I mentioned it’s pulling from are more complete, less long-winded, and ultimately more realized in every capacity. It’s especially a shame considering that the making of this movie seems interesting, and I think the core idea has potential. Missing this one won’t hurt you. This is one call you don’t want to get back.
Take a look at the movie’s trailer after reading the in-depth review of the horror flick The Audition. Below, you can watch the teaser trailer.
In late October, The Audition was made available on streaming services.
Rent or buy via Amazon
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