Easily my favorite of Hoosier filmmaker John Taylor's first three films, Brainwrap
is a quirky and satisfying low-budget indie feature about three siblings - Oscar (Thomas J. Smith), Pearl (Libby McDermott) and Floyd (Nick Butts), who have 48 hours to prove that they meet the requirements their wealthy father laid out in his will in order to inherit $42 million each. If they fail, they money goes to charity and the trio, who apparently squandered away the funds their father had previously invested in them, will likely go on living lives that can best be described as bordering on the insane.
Pearl is a bit of a suicidal lunatic with an unhealthy and un-reciprocated obsession with a late night television action star, while Oscar is a fly by night druggie whose idea of taking his siblings out for a meal involves a stop in at the local soup kitchen. Floyd? Well, he just ain't right.
The strength of Brainwrap
lies in its inventive and infinitely interesting script, penned by Taylor. While it would be a mistake to call these characters actually sympathetic, Taylor wisely avoids going over the top with their misdeeds and instead he manages to create characters whose stories are appealing even when their behaviors are rather repulsive.
The real winner here is Pearl, marvelously brought to life by Libby McDermott, who dances on that line of insanity and occasionally even tiptoes over it without ever crossing that line into complete caricature. McDermott's Pearl is the kind of adorable little woman you'd probably find yourself going home with if you ever found yourself in the local insane asylum. She's a cross between a Borderline Personality, desperately lonely spinster and the "girl next door." McDermott makes you feel her pain and, without question, this woman's in a huge amount of pain.
Thomas J. Smith makes Oscar the clearly dominant sibling, a young man who isn't nearly as smooth as he thinks he is but who has his act together enough that you can kinda sorta understand why his two siblings follow along. It's sort of like David Spade being the "together" guy in The Benchwarmers.
It doesn't mean he's actually together...simply more together than the others. Nick Butts rounds out the trio quite nicely as Floyd, and while he's not called upon to do nearly as much he gives Floyd a nice, authentic humanity that balances out quite well with the rest of the film.
D.P. Matt Stahley's camera work is more solid and assured than in Taylor's first film, Promenade,
and we even work in full-on color this time around. A lot of the editing and pacing issues that were evident in Taylor's first film are addressed here, giving Brainwrap
a crisper, more energetic feeling that works nicely with its crisp dialogue.
Filmed in Anderson, Indiana, Brainwrap
is now available on DVD. For more information or to purchase the film, visit the Brainwrap website.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic