Timothy J. Cox
Matthew Mahler, Ross Mahler
"What Jack Built" a Promising Yet Uneven Short
Matthew Mahler's eight-minute short film What Jack Built is an intriguing, even involving film that holds your attention despite, or maybe because of, Mahler's attention to detail lacks the consistency to create what might've been a more wholly satisfying viewing experience.
The film circles around a central figure, played by indie vet Timothy J. Cox, a man we must assume is named Jack and a man we can also assume is in the active act of building something. Much of the film, the vast majority of it, centers around the actual act of building and the anxiety meets almost childlike glee that Jack experiences as he moves closer and closer to having a finished product.
What is Jack building?
In some ways, that's the question that Mahler leaves planted in one's brain even as the film winds down. Co-written with Ross Mahler, What Jack Built feels like it could be an alien thriller or a monster thriller or maybe even something else entirely. To his credit, Mahler doesn't rest on easy devices and allows the tension to build.
Where What Jack Built suffers is in a tonal inconsistency that makes it difficult to really immerse oneself in the film. It starts with an original score, created by Mahler, that is neither helpful or complementary to the largely unspoken story. In films such as this one, it's the little things that say so much and in What Jack Built these little things don't gel together in a way that creates a believable or involving story. From the largely intrusive original music to design/props inconsistencies, too much of What Jack Built feels like it's comprised of extra parts in much the same way that Jack seems to be building whatever it is that he's building.
This doesn't mean that What Jack Built is a waste of time. It isn't. As Jack, Timothy J. cox nicely weaves together a sort of frantic nature with his childlike glee and creates a character that holds our attention and makes us wonder what he will do next. The setting itself is captivating and creates a mysterious atmosphere that makes you wonder where Mahler is taking this thing.
The beauty of What Jack Built may very well be that Mahler takes it exactly where I think he wanted to take it. He doesn't cater to the lazy moviegoer, but trusts that this somewhat experimental journey will tell the story in sufficient ways.
A flawed yet promising film that makes one look forward to Mahler's next film yet also makes you sort of contemplate how much better this film could have been, What Jack Built is ultimately up to you.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic