In 10 Words or Less
Life's a bitch, then everyone you know sleeps with one
If there's one kind of film that can be done on an independent budget without looking cheap, it's a romantic comedy. All you need are some pretty places and a couple of pretty people, and you've got yourself a good start. And if you manage to find a script that makes even a bit of sense and doesn't insult the audience, you're doing great. Otherwise, you have one of the other 98% of the romantic comedies out there. Where Knots falls in that range of success might be a matter of taste, but there are some definite factors we can judge this film on.
Dave (Scott Cohen) and Greta (Annabeth Gish, "The X-Files") are just moved-in to their new apartment, and things aren't exactly great between husband and wife. So it probably wasn't a good idea for him to set up a double-date for himself and Greta, and with his good-guy friend Jake (Michael Leydon Campbell) and Lily (Paulina Porizkova), a woman he met at a bar, whom Dave would love to bed. Following the way dinner goes, it's not much of a surprise to see what's coming next, and it ends with Dave and Greta splitting up thanks to Lily, though Dave is having trouble letting go.
There's a third musketeer in this story, and that's John Stamos' fashion photographer Cal. With his womanizing ways, he provides the film with a full-spectrum of sexuality, from Jake, who can't get any, Dave, who gets a bit, and Cal, who can't get enough, despite having a girlfriend, Emily (Tara Reid), for five years. Through them, this film attempts to show what happens when people are tied together by sex (Get it? Tied together...Knots...) and not much else. Looking at that sentence, it seems a tad too important an idea for a movie that gets laughs from blurry sex with Germans and a Jack Black imitator. Truthfully, it might not have been the filmmakers' intent, but if that's not the point, then I missed it or there wasn't a point.
This film has very non-traditional pacing and tone, making it feel like an over-long episode of an HBO series instead of a feature film. The dialogue, which feels in many ways like it's attempting to mimic the films of Kevin Smith, is too on-the-nose, as if it's trying harder to be witty than to be real. Often, what should be dialogue ends up as short alternating monologues, full of the pop-culture references that fill Smith and Quentin Tarantino's characters' mouths.
Even the plot points, like a conversation between two strangers who are friends of one person, that reveals a secret, have the blunt comedic timing of a primetime sitcom. Add in a musical score that serves better as a joke punctuating laugh track and you have a film that is too real to work as weird, and too ridiculous to have any real impact. At some points I expected a massive "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World"-like car chase to break out, but had to settle instead for one of the worst group shock-takes I've ever seen. The ending is equally disappointing, as the film takes a bit of an easy way out.
The actors, especially Campbell as the "good guy," do a decent job with what they are given to work with, with the exception of Stamos and Porizkova. Stamos is actually better than his character is written, portraying what Uncle Jessie probably was like when the "Full House" cameras weren't on. He's fun as a total dirtbag, even if it's not the most complex role. He's so perfect for the part that it's surprising he hasn't done it before, and would be surprising if he doesn't do it again.
Porizkova, on the other hand, is showing her skill as a model, rather than acting. As a sexual StarGate for the film's characters, she doesn't show many more emotions than "sexy." While it's absolutely true that she doesn't have much more to do than be sexy, it would have been nice for her facial expression to change. She does manage to make Reid look like a better actor in comparison, so I guess you can't be picky when it comes to miracle workers.
Knots is a one-DVD release, packed in your average black keepcase. The disc features a static anamorphic widescreen menu, with options to watch the film, select scenes, view special features and adjust the subtitles. The scene selection menus have animated previews and titles for each scene, while subtitles are available in English and Spanish, along with English closed captioning.
For an independent film, the video looks very good, with quality color that runs a bit red in warmer scenes. The level of fine detail varies, but never gets exactly crisp, despite a few scenes which exhibit a great image, especially those in Cal's studio. The color palette is generally cool, with some touches of red, and it comes across cleanly. There's no dirt or damage evident, and no obvious compression concerns.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, and the mix leaves its elements well defined and delivered well. The score can get a bit heavy, especially when it's saying "Here's the funny," but the dialogue is never overpowered. There's not much in terms of separation between channels.
The big special feature is a feature-length, screen-specific audio commentary with producer Dan Abrams, writer/director Greg Lombardo and actress Annabeth Gish, whose presence has to be considered something of a coup for this DVD. The threesome chat in friendly tones, without much in the way of dead air, as they discuss the production, their experience during the film's shooting, thoughts about the story and the performances of everyone involved. The standard indie-film commentary topics arise, including cost, how wonderful everyone was (especially the big stars who slummed on the production) and how hard everyone worked, but it doesn't make the track too cookie-cutter. If you like the film, it's worth a listen.
Three deleted scenes are included, though only one was really deleted, and the other two were trimmed down. The one that was deleted would have been interesting, but the concept was reused later in the film. A reel of outtakes is also included, but while they just aren't very funny, Stamos has a few cute flubs. Wrapping things up is an extensive trailer gallery, but only one of the films covered is very interesting (Aussie zombie flick Undead) and there's no trailer for Knots.
The Bottom Line
I can't help but feel this film would have been great as a half-hour series on HBO, where the rapid pacing, sitcom elements and high-energy feel would fit better. All the nudity wouldn't hurt either. But as a film, there's just something off about it, and it may just be Porizkova's part, who's sexual organs are something of a deus ex machina for the film, pushing forward a plot that really doesn't go together. To spend a bit more time with these characters to allow development that's natural might have changed everything. The DVD looks very nice, with a handful of bonus features, though it won't get many spins in most homes. As a rental, it won't ruin your weekend.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.