By Andrew Buckner
**** out of *****.
The seventeen minute serio-comic short film from writer-director Sean Meehan, “Total Performance”, boasts both incredible talent and a unique and intriguing narrative concept. What further strengthens this fantastic endeavor is that the people in Meehan’s screenplay are lively and endearing. Moreover, the dialogue is dripping with authentic, frequently funny and often slyly witty banter. This is interpreted with equally magnificent turns from Tory Berner as the lead, Cori Sweeney, and Steven Conroy as Tim Madsen. These tremendous enactments grandly compliment the personalities Meehan has erected. This is so largely because the main depictions are all so tremendously realized. They bring home all the multi-layered facets of those we meet in the proximity of the tale. Such is done with nuance and unwavering believability. There is an everyday likability about Sweeney and Madsen that make them immediately relatable.
Meehan’s smoothly structured and magnificently directed and penned account focuses in on Sweeney. She is a struggling actress who is employed by a company, whose name graces the title of the piece, that lends out their members to represent an individual who is about to suffer a break-up, be let go from their occupation or dealt unfortunate news. The only catch is she can’t give any advice. But, when the comfort of being out of the practiced discussion long before it occurs, as is her only rule, is unexpectedly broken she finds herself amid the chaos. This transpires as a situation she was hired to provide her particular service to manifests while she is still on the premises.
When the endeavor turns from effectively humorous and often playful to dramatic to thoughtful in the second half the transition is effortless. This is thanks to the continued character-oriented focus throughout. It is also attributed to, not only the stalwart impact of the depictions from Berner and Conroy, but a secondary cast that is equally spectacular. The on-screen depictions by Caitlin Berger as Annie Heron, Anthony Rainville as Rafi, Timothy J. Cox as Walter Baron, Paul Locke as Bruce, Phoebe Kuhlman as Lauren and Lauren B. Nelson as Susan inspire awe. They quietly captive the audience with their multi-layered, high-caliber enactments. The event that brings about the conversion in tone is harrowing and genuinely unexpected. It heightens our emotional investment in these fictional personalities even more. Furthermore, it is punctuated by a closing shot that perfectly illuminates the various questions and conflicting emotions that must be going on in Sweeney’s mind. The open- ended nature of this only makes the results all the more effective and cerebral. By doing so the spectators is boldly forced to put themselves in Sweeney’s shoes. The composition is all more potent because it asks us to figure out what decision any of us would make in the state of affairs Sweeney finds herself in.
The first sequence draws us in immediately. We see Sweeney going through a job related rehearsal. It is her approach to her profession which is naturally fascinating. Yet, it also grips us on a technical level. This is thanks to, not only a naturally innovative storyline, but also mood-catching music by Cesar Suarez. Further appreciation for this attribute is courtesy of Chris Loughran’s colorful, striking and always luminous cinematography. Meehan’s film editing and digital effects are marvelous and impressive. Hair stylist and makeup artist Maya Landi and gaffer Joe McLeish’s particular contributions are just as phenomenal. Everyone involved presents magnificent work. This factor illuminates the proceedings significantly.
“Total Performance” is magnificently orchestrated throughout. It showcases a tremendous balance of humor and heart. It is also made all the more poignant by Meehan’s ability to seamlessly fill the screen with riveting cinematic personalities that we care about. The writing is sharp and the interpretations of the individuals that populate Meehan’s script are knock-outs all around. This is a brief composition that is not only a beauty to be caught up in but to watch unfold and to meditate upon. Meehan has crafted a dazzler. It is one that is propelled by both a tremendous and original plot idea and same said execution. This is a must-see.
You can check out the Facebook page for “Total Performance” here.