From The Head
Breaking Glass Pictures // Unrated // May 31, 2013
Review by Jeff Nelson | posted May 30, 2013
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There's something to be said about a filmmaker who pulls directly from his or her life experiences. While all writers and directors draw varied amounts of inspiration from their backgrounds, some use their past as the plot's focal point. This decision can ultimately enhance the final product, as it adds a certain quality to the motion picture. It often allows the film to become much more intimate and genuine. This happens to be the case with George Griffith's From The Head. Not only does he put an important point of his life on the silver screen, but he explores the complexity of humanity through the process. Exploring such deep topics can become a monumental task. By filming in the world of realism, the audience knows that they're watching a movie, although it corresponds with the viewers' expectations of what is considered reality.

Taking place in the year 1995 within the city of New York, From The Head takes place in the bathroom of a strip club. Shoes (George Griffith) has now been working as the bathroom attendant for three years. His job is to get patrons to put whatever money they have into his tip bowl. Shoe's job proves to be more than simply standing in the bathroom, as he acts as a "therapist" for the drunken men who decide to spill their secrets to this charming individual. Taking place in real time, From The Head explores the night of Shoe's shift as troubled men continue to come and go.

The first scene and a few other quick snippets take place in the club itself, although the bulk of the running time is spent in the bathroom. The camera sticks with Shoes throughout. He may be cool, calm, and collected, but this specific night changes him. He's known to deliver hilarious jokes and interact extremely well with all customers and co-workers. He rarely gets a moment alone, as patrons continue to walk in one after the other. Multiple individuals tell Shoes that he's wasting his time working as a bathroom attendant. However, he's a creature of habit, as he doesn't want to abandon his routine. While the strip club acts as a home for making a living, it also acts as a prison in which he cannot seem to escape. With each moment spent in this bathroom, moviegoers get the opportunity to observe the complexities of the patrons, as well as how Shoes reacts. This protagonist is easy to root for, since it doesn't take very long to sympathize with him. While we want him to leave and live his life, his interactions with others at this job will not lose your attention for a single moment.

Even though From The Head explores the men who are attending the strip club, Shoes is the constant focal point. The story might appear to be focusing on the customers, although the narrative ultimately tells a lot about its main character. It's quite clear that this particular night will change him forever. However, his character growth is influenced by his discussions with those who continue to enter and leave the bathroom. Shoes is incredibly popular due to his humor and wit. Griffith's screenplay is solid, since it's incredibly genuine. The interactions feel raw and true. There are a few funny lines of dialogue, but Shoes' poetic words steal numerous scenes. After the patrons announce their secrets, Shoes responds with a certain charm that will easily enchant audiences. Since the feature takes place in real time, the pacing is rather fluid and smooth. Griffith knows how to get audiences invested in this voyeuristic moviegoing experience.

From The Head introduces a variety of themes that affect the strip club customers, as well as the co-workers. The film asks an extremely crucial question: in a psychological sense, why do people attend strip clubs? George Griffith's answer is that individuals are able to obtain a certain acceptance and openness that isn't received elsewhere. As I previously stated, Shoes has an ongoing battle with his job representing his home or a prison. This stands true for some of the patrons, as well as the workers. One man walks into the bathroom multiple times in order to discuss his guilt, since he's in a committed relationship with his girlfriend, yet he continues to receive lap dances from other women. He constantly asks the question: why am I here? While he continues to say this, it takes quite some time for him to actually leave. Men are drawn in by the bare women, but ultimately become trapped. While some are enjoying the services, others want nothing more than to leave.

Since the characters are limited to those who walk into the bathroom, this independent drama has a small cast. Writer/director George Griffith stars in the lead role as Shoes. His knowledge and understanding of the material is evident through his excellent delivery. Griffith is quick, witty, and charming. From start to finish, he delivers an incredibly genuine representation. There are a a few characters who return to the bathroom to speak with Shoes numerous times, such as Gordy (Jeffrey Doornbos). Gordy is different from the majority of the patrons. Doornbos delivers excellent interactions with Griffith, which help deliver realism. The majority of the cast delivers this realism quite well.

The visuals reflect this filmmaker's desire to create a realistic tone. He has employed a documentary-style of filming, as he uses deep focus cinematography and utilizes a lot of handheld camerawork. Since the film takes place in a strip club bathroom, From The Head has a dark and gloomy atmosphere that reflects quite well on the emotional state of each character that wanders into the lavatory. There's a constant claustrophobic-feel to the motion picture, as there are numerous close-ups that escalate Shoes' emotional intensity within this small space. This independent drama is successful in its visual goals.

George Griffith's From The Head is a nice surprise. It's raw, genuine, and authentic. This realism is carried through nearly every aspect of the film. Even though the emotional impact is lost through a few instances, this drama explores a variety of intriguing concepts that had my eyes glued to the screen. I found myself becoming increasingly invested in the film's central themes and characters. From The Head is a unique piece of filmmaking that will be appreciated by its target audience. Recommended.



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