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MPI Home Video // Unrated // November 24, 2015
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted November 11, 2015 | E-mail the Author
Ron (Onur Tukel), his wife Nicki (Trieste Kelly Dunn), Ron's friend Les (Max Casella), and his wife Kate (Jennifer Prediger) are all longtime friends who routinely meet for group dinners. Tonight's topic of dinner conversation is inspired by Ron, who had to be dragged away from a phone call he was making to Steve Bricks' (Dylan Baker) radio segment, where he asks listeners to tell him the worst thing they've ever done. With some prodding, Ron confesses that his answer was a time in college when he accidentally hit on another student's girlfriend, and slammed a door on him in defense, accidentally chopping two of the guy's fingers off. What Ron can't know is that this revelation will open up a can of worms, one which will threaten both marriages, put multiple people's jobs in danger, and result in Ron being sent not one but a string of severed body parts by an unidentified tormentor.

This is the premise of Applesauce, a new and interesting film by Tukel, who not only plays Ron but also wrote and directed the film. It's mostly a comedy, could be viewed as a mystery, occasionally seems like a horror movie, and is consistently thoughtful. It's not just a domino effect, it's a domino effect where the initial line of dominoes splits into two lines, and then each of those lines split until there are several threads all going in their own directions. It's a unique film in that it has no antagonist or even a central conflict, just a series of small conflicts that quickly stack on top of one another.

The most obvious outcome of Ron's confession is that it might be so off-putting that it upsets one of the other three people at the dinner party, but Tukel's ripple effect is not so straightforward. Without revealing Applesauce's secrets, Tukel's fascination seems to lie mostly in unintended consequences, the things that people say and do that may make perfect sense in the moment but which result in things that are both perfectly logical and also often unpredictable. The key, of course, as with all good writing, is that most of these incidents, such as the film's first big ripple (which I will not spoil), or Ron's confrontation of one of his students, come out of each character's own neuroses or concerns about themselves or about their lives, and in turn set off another person's neuroses in a way that the first party is bound to misinterpret. One could argue that Applesauce's conflicts could be resolved with simple communication, and there are times when Tukel has characters act in ways that are conveniently conspicuous in order to move the plot forward, but for the most part, these machinations feel natural.

In illustrating these characters, Tukel is lucky to have a very talented core cast. Although on the surface, they seem like similar people (Ron and Les are both generally good-natured but slightly arrogant and deeply petty guys, and Nicki and Kate are both smart women who simultaneously appear to forgive a great deal in the men but also genuinely love them), the movie's conflicts start to draw out other aspects of their personality. Both Les and Kate are more fearful than Ron and Nicki, a worry that manifests itself as desperation in Kate and resentment in Les. Ron's emotions tend to bubble to the surface in ways he leaps to deny, in the form of immature behavior and insults. He views himself as a progressive person, and appears to honestly want to teach his class about empathy and viewing all sides of a situation, but he also appears to deny his own biases and stereotypical assumptions of men and women.

It's hard to summarize the experience of watching Applesauce without spoiling it, but spoiling its reveals would be a disservice to the film, which frequently zigs when the audience expects it to zag, as the characters get drawn further and further into their own interpersonal conflicts. At the same time, the movie is never overly dark or dour, even when dealing with gruesome and grisly subject matter, constantly injecting hilarious one-liners (Ron's comment about Rodin's "The Thinker" is probably the best line in the movie) and mining comedy from unexpected situations and eccentric side characters. It is a rarity in modern moviemaking: a unique movie, a smart movie, and one that is constantly asking questions.

The Blu-ray
Applesauce comes to Blu-ray with some of the most eye-catching, visually pleasing cover art of the year, an arrangement of icon-style cartoon images of relevant objects from the movie, arranged in the shape of an apple. On the commentary, Tukel mentions he maintains a day job as a graphic designer to help support his filmmaking, so it wouldn't be at all surprising to learn that he designed this artwork himself, or that it was chosen because of his own taste in graphic design. The pull quotes arranged around it are a little awkward, but it doesn't take away from the image itself. The single-disc release comes in a Viva Elite Blu-ray case, and there is no insert.

The Video and Audio
Dark Sky presents Applesauce in 1.78:1 1080p AVC and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (despite a Dolby Digital logo on the package), both of which are very strong for a low-budget movie. Visually, this is a fairly natural-looking movie, and so most of the pitfalls in terms of a digital presentation have to do with the way the disc handles darkness. Some scenes in a bedroom with the lights off early on are surprisingly well-defined, with only a light, natural-looking grain or noise over the image rather than banding or artifacting. In the daytime, colors take on a slight cool temperature, leaning toward grays, and at night, the streetlights cast an orange hue, but in either case, the colors seem accurate. The image is also sharp and crisp. Sound-wise, Tukel mentions on his commentary that he believes the sound of the environment is very important, and his film backs that sentiment up in action, creating a number of surprisingly realistic environments, including restaurants, classrooms, and city streets, which have an authenticity in both their details and the way they are presented in the mix. The film is not exactly action-packed, but the attention to detail in this one area makes the track suprisingly compelling all on its own. An LPCM 2.0 track and English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing are also included.

The Extras
The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary by writer/director Onur Tukel. While Tukel covers the actual making of the movie, with regard to casting and writing the story, he also talks at length about his place in the industry and his experiences as a low-budget filmmaker, both the good and the bad. Well worth a listen both for fans of the film and for those who are interested in breaking into filmmaking themselves. As a side note, the track itself is a little muffled and flat, either due to the way it was recorded or the way it was mixed for the disc.

A couple of video extras round out the disc. A reel of deleted scenes (13:16) include a bunch of additional Stevie Bricks material, the scene of Ron getting suspended, more with the family who owns the Chinese restaurant, and a major cut to one of Kate's pivotal scenes. The reel also ends with the complete footage from the movie's "Orange is the New Black" parody. The other inclusion is a blooper reel (8:46), the first of which illustrates Tukel's improvisational directorial style.

Trailers for Summer of Blood, Call Me Lucky, and Deathgasm play before the main menu. An original theatrical trailer for Applesauce is also included.

Applesauce is the rare film that really takes the germ of an idea and runs with it, developing and extrapolating it into more and more interesting ways, never satisfied to stop at a certain level of dramatic insanity without throwing another log on the fire. Dark Sky has turned around and granted it a very strong Blu-ray, with a good selection of extras and even a wonderful cover. Recommended.

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