For most movies, living on the fringe of society means a certain level of judgment is passed on the characters. Sometimes it’s implicit in the condescending filmmaking techniques, with attempts made at clarifying our protagonists as “The Other,” a socio-economic problem compounded by these characters often being minorities. At other times it’s more overt, the picture trying to make you root for the underdog by creating a superficial caricature to engender sympathetic audience emotions, regardless of the context. Which is why it’s refreshing to see an indie like “Bad Posture” crop up, a picture that remains laser-sharp in its focus as it refuses to categorize its wayward protagonists.
Flo (Florian Brozek, also the writer) is a young man adrift in Albuquerque, nursing the wound of losing his job. Instead of jumping back into the workforce, he falls in with old friend Trey (Trey Cole), who gets by through a series of low-level cons and thefts. Flo understands he’s got to stay afloat, so his allegiance with Trey feels naturally built out of nostalgia for a more youthful time as well as a general fiscal worry. Whenever Trey enthusiastically pitches one of his half-assed criminal schemes, it’s almost as if Flo’s thoughtful silence is trying to discern whether his friend is actually worth a listen.
Flo and Trey live a leisurely life, and while this seems to please Trey, Flo is basically frustrated at this inert pace. When Trey opts to rob a young woman, Marissa (Tabatha Shaun), it’s the one moment where Flo observes the cracks in their relationship. Moving in to flirt with the lonely girl in the park, Flo is transfixed — not only is this the first real connection he’s formed in ages, but he suddenly feels loose, confident, even charming, trying to pull words out of this beautiful young woman. It’s his first real smile of the film and, from what we can gather, his first one in a long time.
As Trey opts to sell her car and spend the contents of her wallet, Flo stirs. The girl, Marissa, has invaded his fantasies. He spends nights gazing at her modest emerald wallet, almost fascinated by illicitly sharing something of worth with her. Once he starts to spy on her, he realizes he can not only rescue her car, but also compensate her for the funds lost. It’s not the most common meet-cute, but it makes sense, with Marissa played by Shaun, a newcomer with moony, soulful eyes, an expressive brow, and an adorably imperfect smile. It would be enough for Flo to be convinced she was the prettiest girl in the southwest, but when he realizes that she represents a chance for him to redeem himself, it’s an opportunity to see a young man take stock of his life, and begin to form the building blocks of a responsible lifestyle. Brozek, a more handsome Troy Garity, beautifully conveys the struggles of a young man caught between different forms of “respectability,” and uncertain about his romantic affections.
Director Malcolm Murray seems less interested in developing a sequence of events as much as developing a small community. Populated by non-actors, and shot through high definition video, Murray allows the atmosphere to tell the story, relying on a colorful soundtrack of folksy indie rock and old school hip hop to crystallize a place where time stands still. When Flo, Trey and a crew of locals descend upon a shipyard to paint graffiti, it’s an affectionate coming-together, the illicit vandalism conquered by what almost seems like a family. A later house party, with dancing, drinking and laughter, is captured though low-fi camera angles, dim lighting and extras milling about and it still captures a wonderful sense of camaraderie in this community, even in houses that look abandoned, with bare walls, destroyed toilets and a disconcertingly overwhelming male-to-female ratio.
Not entirely dry, the often meandering “Bad Posture” still finds moments of warm humor, often provided by the eccentric locals that make up the supporting cast. While there’s the sense none are trustworthy, and some are possibly homeless drunks, it’s such a close-knit community that everyone can ask each other for a helping hand when needed, and in some spots, a bit of advice. The small-town economics of the unemployed also leads to moments like Flo spying on Marissa, finding she has a man, and angrily prying money from her stolen wallet to drink away his sorrows. He can’t have her, but in those smaller moments, a bottle of vodka is the next best thing. [A-]
“Bad Posture” is currently playing at the reRun Gastropub Theater in Brooklyn, New York.