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If you're a fan of those fractured character studies in which one poor soul spends 90-some minutes trapped in a grip of desperation, frustration, and paranoia, well, here's another one that's probably worth seeing. It might not be as challenging or innovative as The Machinist, Keane, or Fight Club, but that's not to say Ari Kirschenbaum's Fabled doesn't have some pretty cool stuff to offer.
Virtually plotless, Fabled is about an average schmo working drone who 's having a really bad week. Not only has he lost his dog and his (gorgeous) girlfriend, but poor Joe Fable also has to do deal with snooping therapists, conspiratorial co-workers, a mystery man who keeps popping up, and a deep, dark secret that could ruin his life. Joe's only friend, Alex, is interested in keeping that secret buried deep -- but Joe's not exactly thinking clearly these days. Plus he's an alcoholic ... who's also on prescription drugs.
Creatively shot and quite visually cool, the flick takes its good, sweet time in getting to the meat of the matter, but at least the actors are up to snuff. As the gradually deteriorating main character, Desmond Askew is really quite excellent, creating a character who's eminently unlikable, but oddly sympathetic, too. And it's a good thing Askew is so strong, because the whole of the movie pretty much rests on his performance.
For a film shot on very limited means (and in less than a month), Fabled packs a fairly nifty arsenal of tricks. Framing the main feature is a voice-over fairy tale story that's presented by a very proper-sounding British girl. I'll admit that the connection between the Joseph's mental descent and the narrated fairy tale was sometimes lost to me, but the frequent passages bring a creatively creepy little touch to the experience. Ditto Kirschenbaum's moody lighting, creative compositions, and affection for narrative ambiguity.
Bottom Line: If watching a guy go slowly insane for 88 minutes sounds interesting to you, Fabled might be right up your alley.
Video: It's an impressively clean anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) transfer, and one that shows off the flick's visual strengths quite handsomely.
Audio: The Dolby Digital 2.0 track does a fine (if not exactly stellar) job of delivering the goods.
Writer/director Ari Kirschenbaum and lead actors Desmond Askew and J. Richey Nash sit down for a jokey and fairly irreverent audio commentary. Production info is covered, if only in cursory form, but the guys make for a fairly amusing yack-track all the same.
Also included are approximately 25 minutes of deleted/extended scenes, a 6-minute collection of outtakes, a 6-minute behind-the-scenes slide show, and a bunch of Indican trailers for Fabled, Dingle, Barry, Gory Gory Hallelujah, Pariah, and Moonlight.
Fabled is not much more than a slickly mounted downward spiral of a character study, but the slow spots are salvaged by some creative directorial touches and a very strong lead performance.