The Distraction
Vanguard // R // $29.99 // May 27, 2003
Review by Don Houston | posted June 8, 2003
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Movie: Most movies are about relationships of one sort or another. Since we all have a variety of relationships, we're meant to identify with characters in situations that have some personal meaning for each of us. How a director interprets a situation, and how the actors perform it, will often make or break a movie's successfulness (not just in terms of financial success either). This leads me into an independent movie released by Vanguard, The Distraction.

The movie centered on a young male named Paul (Evan Jones) who has given up his pursuit of art in favor of the stability of a regular job (filmed at the then offices of ebay.com, before the company made it big) in order to make a life for him and his wife (Elora Hayes). He loves her very much even though she had cheated on him in the recent past. At work, he meets a cute co-worker (Jennifer Pruitt) and the two of them are immediately attracted to one another. How he handles a growing affection towards her is what the movie is all about.

Low budget independent movies are not known for having high end technical values and well developed scripts since they are often a labor of love for their directors. Such is sort of the case here where the director is also the writer, editor and producer (Greg Tennant). Before I listened to the commentary, I admit that much of the movie's subtleties went over my head. Some aspects of the movie, like the drab office where Leslie (Pruitt) is a beacon to light for Paul are obvious while most of the others are obscure to the point of making me wonder what's going on. The director points this out on the commentary and makes it clear that he wishes he had done a lot of things differently (you get points for honesty in my book).

The acting was solid as well as the script in portraying the situation where the lead will soon be faced with a choice. The choice was obvious from the early part of the movie and while his character is not particularly sympathetic, he's a far cry from the anti-heroes many independent movies are known for. Whatever he does, he'll have regrets but will the consequences outweigh what he wants do?

The down side of the movie for me included not only the limited scope of the film or the technical aspects but the way so many of the people are stereotyped. Women at work are catty and gossip hounds while most of the men are barely above caveman status. The director waivers back and forth on the commentary track about several issues related to this and it only supports my theory that he was making much of it up as he went along. He started with a decent concept but went into filming before he was ready. As such, it's worth a Rental.

Picture: The picture was presented in 1.66:1 ratio widescreen as originally shot on 16 mm film. As such, it looked soft on focus most of the time, had way too much grain, and an assortment of other problems relating to color.

Sound: The sound was presented in stereo English but most of the time, it sounded like mono. The music seemed pretty original, and usually appropriate to the story, and clearer than the hollow vocals. Low budget but better than the picture.

Extras: There were about 6 minutes of deleted scenes. They didn't really add much and were very unpolished looking but it's nice to see some of the cut footage. There was also a nearly 22 minute long Behind the Scenes feature that looked much clearer than the feature itself. I really think it added some value here. The last extra was the director's commentary which helped me make more sense of the movie. There were a number of technical glitches where it cut on and off, and there was a lot of waffling on the part of the director as he discussed the movie's meaning with a supporting cast member, but it wasn't the absolute worst commentary track I've ever heard.

Final Thoughts: I think the movie lacked as much depth as I expect in an independent movie but it was worth a rental. If the director had polished this one up a bit, I'm sure I would've liked it more but his focus seemed to waiver too much and that often kills the value of a movie. Even the ending was unsatisfying in many ways, given the buildup it had.



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