Carried Away has very much the feel of a stage production, especially in its dialogue, which is stilted and distinctly non-naturalistic. That's not necessarily a bad thing; for instance, there's a similar use of non-naturalistic dialogue in the excellent thriller The Spanish Prisoner. In the case of Carried Away, though, it seems like director/writer Paul Kostick isn't entirely comfortable with heading in that direction, and holds something back in the attempt to make the characters seem truly realistic.
To a certain extent, the protagonist Les has the capacity to become an Everyman, to represent the ordinary guy in over his head in a situation spinning out of control. Some of the best scenes in the film have to do with Les clumsily trying to "make things right": they're practically painful to watch because it's all too clear that his well-intentioned actions are going to make things worse. The film doesn't work much with this universality, though, choosing to instead focus on Les' personal dilemma: he's stuck in a dead-end job and wants to do something with his life. But in the short span of the film – both literally in that it's 87 minutes long, and figuratively in that it covers only a few days of Les' life – we don't learn enough about him to understand the change that is apparently taking place. How can the viewer assess the development of his personality when we only see half the picture?
As a general rule, the supporting characters in Carried Away don't provide much by way of support. Les' wife revolves in and out of the story showing a different facet of her personality each time; this may be a sign that the character as written has substantial depth to it, but she's not given enough screen time to show it, so the character ends up being more of a two-dimensional chameleon rather than a three-dimensional person. The character of Plastic Man is similarly enigmatic; his obsession with fortune cookies provides him with a surface quirkiness that's never explored.
I was very pleased to see that Carried Away's 1.85:1 widescreen transfer is anamorphically enhanced. This is a nice move from Vanguard, whose releases have typically been non-anamorphic, and I hope that this signals a trend for the future.
However, the quality of the print itself leaves a lot to be desired. Right off the bat, it's extremely noisy and fairly blurry, and has a fairly large number of print flaws appearing throughout the film. The image overall looks washed-out, with blacks tending toward dark gray and other colors taking on a pale and anemic appearance.
There two things working against Carried Away in the audio department. One is a music soundtrack that consists entirely of poisonously insipid elevator music. Perhaps this is why the DVD specifically states that it is an "original soundtrack": otherwise the viewer might suspect that the filmmakers surreptitiously taped a piano man in a hotel bar somewhere, having run out of funds for the soundtrack. In all seriousness, I did wonder if the composer had perhaps not seen the movie before writing the music, considering that it doesn't correspond particularly well to what's happening on-screen.
The other strike against Carried Away's soundtrack is that the actual quality of the sound is very poor. It's very muffled, requiring that the volume be cranked up to hear the dialogue; even so, it's often difficult to hear the dialogue properly, and the overall sound is flat and lifeless.
Production values are painfully low on the presentation of the Carried Away DVD. Someone at Vanguard ought to at least install a spell-checker on their computers, if they can't hire a decent copy-editor... there's really no excuse to see the word "thief" misspelled "theif" in the back cover copy. Or to misspell "soundtrack" as "sountrack". Ouch. There's also some menu madness going on here: if you skip the FBI warning, the film jumps straight to the trailer, which, unlike the movie, is not anamorphic, rather than to the menu or the movie itself.
For actual special features, the selection is reasonable, offering an audio commentary track by writer/director Paul Kostick, a selection of deleted scenes, and a trailer for the film.
Carried Away remains balanced on the fence between surrealism and realism, never throwing its lot in with one approach or the other; it makes for a film that has interesting elements but that doesn't develop those elements in a satisfying manner. Indie film fans may want to check this one out as a rental.