There's no denying the "Me Too" world into which Melissa Skirboll's short film My Dinner With Schwartzey is dropped. Based upon a short story first penned by co-screenwriter Penny B. Jackson, My Dinner With Schwartzey tells the cautionary tale of 16-year-old Fiona (Zoe Wilson), a starry-eyed glam wannabe introduced to the larger than life Schwartzey (James Pravasilis), an influential music producer with a penchant for teenage girls who introduces her to the art/rock club scene along with outrageous parties, drugs, and more than a few flamboyant characters.
It's a seductive scene and Skirboll keeps it seductive with dizzying visuals and a pace that keeps the audience as off-kilter as is the obviously naive yet filled with adventure Fiona, a talented young singer who may very well be in over her head with the influential and not afraid to use it Schwartzey. It's only when a mysterious woman shows up in the club unannounced that Schwartzey catches a glimpse of what her future may very well hold if she maintains her current path.
Will she catch on? Or is it already too late?
While there's no doubt that My Dinner With Schwartzey is a cautionary tale, Skirboll is wise enough to know that we have to feel Fiona's experience to fully appreciate both its seductive qualities and its precarious nature. As Schwartzey, James Pravasilis is smarmy personified from moment one and if you don't have a Weinstein flashback you haven't been paying attention. Yet, Skirboll makes sure we're entertained here with a club scene that feels light and fun even as we realize this 16-year-old is downing more than a few Pink Ladies and we can feel how badly this could easily all go.
How often when seduction meets danger does seduction when?
Zoe Wilson gives a charismatic, natural performance as Fiona embodying a teenager on the cusp of being a young woman but not quite there yet. Wilson's vulnerability is palpable, especially as it becomes more dizzied by the environment and the predatory Schwartzey. The female lens of Jackson and Skirboll is absolutely vital here, thankfully avoiding the far too often repeated passive-aggressive blame game laid at the feet of the potential victim.
While the festival world has been thrown into disarray by the COVID-19 pandemic, My Dinner With Schwartzey continues its festival circuit journey with scheduled fall dates at Fort Myers Beach International Film Festival and Hang Onto Your Shorts Film Festival. The film has already picked up a slew of festival awards at Brightside Tavern Film Festival (Best Director - Comedy), Changing Face International Film Festival (Best Comedy Short - February Award), Direct Monthly Online Film Festival (Best Film; Best D.O.P. - January Awards), Long Island International Film Expo (Best Cinematography; Best Editing) and several others.
There's no doubt the awards will continue.
While Wilson and Pravasilis are clearly front and center here, the rest of the ensemble is strong throughout with special kudos going to Demetrius Blocker, who gives the film a couple of moments that are absolutely sublime perfection.
Alexa Wolf's lensing is a visual feast that keeps you uncomfortably entertained in all the right ways, while April Lasky deserves mention for a jarringly seductive and immersive production design. Of course, the script by Jackson and Skirboll is an entertaining gut-check that beautifully balances the film's comic and dramatic moments to perfection.
For more information on My Dinner With Schwartzey, visit the film's official website linked to in the credits.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic