I’ve just finished watching The Scenesters, made in 2009, now released on DVD in Canada, set in 2002 Los Angeles. I have very mixed feelings about this movie. At times, I was frustrated and annoyed by several of the characters, because I am actually frustrated and annoyed by someone who is just like the hipster, know-it-all filmmakers in this movie in my day to day dealings. I suppose kudos to the writer and the actors, because they played their part perfectly. I had originally planned on giving this film 2.5 stars, but it wasn’t the film (or filmmaker’s) fault that I happen to know a few jerks. So, I took out the personal connection and gave this film the 3 star rating, I think it really deserves.
After watching the bonus features, the filmmakers themselves argue as to what genre this film should be categorized as, with one arguing thriller with jokes, and the director saying comedy with thriller aspects, and both tossing around the term black comedy. I would have to say this is a very dark comedy, and quite inventive. There were many moments that took me by surprise at how funny they were, and how real, breaking several movie stereotypes.
The Scenesters is a murder mystery movie, buried beneath the job of a crime scene videographer, whose job is now nested inside his own documentary film. The basic plot is an independent documentary filmmaker (Wallace) needs a job to make ends meet, and lands one as a crime scene videographer. Simultaneously, his producer (Roger) has hired interns to film his filmmaking process and everything he does. They soon meet up with Charlie, the crime scene cleaning professional who has an eye for clues that the rather uninterested CSI team misses. Soon Wallace and Roger goad Charlie into starring in their “documentary” as they try to solve the murder, which has now grown into a series of serial killings.
Confused? Don’t be. The Scenesters is presented in five different filming styles; a black and white, film noire style narrating itself and giving a nice history lesson on the East side of Los Angeles; the documentary or observational portion, which is the majority of the film; newscasts to advance and introduce the crimes; a series of “found footage” scenes, that the killer has filmed and left for Charlie and crew to find; and finally Trial TV scenes where Sherilyn Fenn (of Twin Peaks fame) examines the cast in a courtroom asking the questions the audience wants to ask at the necessary times as an Assistant District Attorney. Surprisingly, these styles all mix well together, but you really should watch the film to really appreciate them, rather than listening to my attempted explanations.
As I said earlier, it was nice to see some stereotypes shattered, and some held up. The complete idiocy and “douchbagery” of the filmmakers was subtle, and nice to see them shown in that light, especially in the courtroom scenes, as when the ADA asks: “You do realize that conspiring to withhold evidence and interfering with a police investigation are both felonies. ” “No I did not… Are you serious?” replies Roger. Classic.
Charlie is reluctantly pulled into this obsessive world of filmmaking, he is manipulated into having a love story sub-plot, manipulated by the killer, but regains his common sense by taking control of the movie(s) being made around him. Towards the end the movie gets rather predictable. I had solved the case about 45 minutes or so in, as the same scenario has been done before, but never before done for laughs like in this case. The soundtrack was rather catchy, and the casting was pretty good too. Suzanne May was a wonderful discovery to me, and hopefully she continues to have a successful career. The only downside is the movie tended to get far too wrapped in its own cleverness and pushed it’s own self-awareness a little too much.
Give this one a watch if you have the time, even if the film’s plot and cleverness fail to impress you, there are some beautiful black and white shots of the city of Los Angeles that anyone can enjoy.