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Short Starts: “Beastly” Director Daniel Barnz’s “The Cutting Room”

Short Starts: "Beastly" Director Daniel Barnz's "The Cutting Room"

“Do you have a name or are you an extra?”

That’s what Joan Swanson, rejected third female lead in “All About Eve,” bluntly asks the newcomer to her trailer in “The Cutting Room,” the 2001 debut of “Beastly” director Daniel Barnz (then credited as Daniel Bernstein). This trailer, it turns out, is where characters cut out from works of fiction end up, once they’ve been booted from the creative process. There’s Lucy, an unwanted extra Bennet sister from “Pride and Prejudice,” an analyst from the pilot of “Seinfeld” who was more neurotic than Jerry, and other erstwhile literary and cinematic cast members. It’s an interesting comic meditation on the creation of story and character, an early moment of inspiration from a young director. Barnz would first go on to direct 2008’s “Phoebe in Wonderland” before his latest, an adaptation of Alex Finn’s modernization of “Beauty and the Beast.”

To be honest, this short film could have been horrible. The initial idea, thinking up possible rejected characters from great works of art and putting them into a trailer, could have ended up like a mediocre “Top 10″ list that stops being funny around number five. There’s even a moment here, a joke about the fourth Brady sister that got cut from the center square, which falls flat and threatens to turn the short into a series of mediocre pop culture jokes. But Barnz doesn’t fall into that trap and manages to keep these fifteen minutes charming and somewhat thought-provoking.

Jason (Todd Louiso of “High Fidelity”), who has been cut from a Jerry Bruckheimer disaster flick, jars the previously self-pitying rejects into motion. Could unnecessary characters save themselves by writing a new story, in which they all get to play a part? Or is there no way out beyond the hope of getting written back in? Can two people find love, even if they were written 200 years apart? These questions are addressed, though not answered, in a way that gets you thinking — which is exactly what a short film should do.

There are some good jokes, the wigs are horrendous, and there’s a totally random Kate Hudson cameo. Grab fifteen minutes and take a look:

The Cutting Room
Tags: The Cutting Room

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