By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.
The title character of director Daniel Lofaso’s smart and darkly comedic five-minute and eight second short film, “Gary From Accounting” (2016), is an unassuming and mostly unwilling hero. He is not the same first named individual who our lead, Nathan (in another of Timothy J. Cox’s various show-stopping, wholly gripping performances), has thought to have developed such a strong rapport with via their respective occupations. Hence, his confusion and wrongful invitation to the incident that is about to unfold. Still, he is, nevertheless, forced to partake in an intervention which confronts Nathan’s alcoholism. This event has been put together by Nathan’s wife, Hannah (in a brilliantly realized and believable depiction from Thea McCartan). Upon entering his home, Nathan is met with heart-rendering declarations that would move even the stoniest of centers. For instance, Nathan’s sister, Belle (in a riveting enactment by Jake Lipman), cries out: “I can’t sleep at night because I worry about you driving drunk!” Hannah declares immediately afterward: “I have no one to talk to because you are out drinking every night!” Uncomfortable and desperately trying to find a way out of the situation, Gary (in an uproarious, bulls-eye representation from Mark Grenier), meekly chimes in with: “Your expense reports are sometimes a little late.” The rest of the tale teeters on this sharply established, seriocomic edge. This is as Nathan’s kin confront him with genuinely troubling episodes based on his intoxicating habits. All the while, Gary, whose presence Nathan seems solely enthusiastic and truly supported by, struggles to come up with something a fraction as unnerving as the myriad tribulations Nathan’s relatives are hurling at him.
Such is a distinctly clever premise. It is made more so by first time screenwriter Phoebe Torres’ and Lofaso’s decision to plant Gary, a highly likable persona who would fit all too contentedly in a working-class sitcom, in a circumstance of somber beings and high drama. The well-penned dialogue from Nathan’s loved ones is wrenching; full of pain and grief. Their embodiments of these entities are equally gripping. The centerpiece of this is a terse instance at around the three-minute mark. At this moment, Nathan’s children, cited as Little Boy and Little Girl (Christopher John and Rhea Kottakis respectively, in roles which showcase talent beyond their young years), confess to their father the difficulties he has inflicted on their lives. Despite the undeniable poignancy of these illustrations, Lofaso and Torres make an almost acrobatic exercise out of the composition. The effort finds just the right tone and balance for its affected and guffaw-inducing components. Such is instituted immediately. From this perfectly symmetrical juggling act it never wavers. It makes this briskly paced, well-penned and stalwartly guided affair even more masterful in both presentation and construction. Consequently, the laughs become increasingly triumphant. They hit us all more potently because of this divide. This is because we find ourselves snickering at subjects that otherwise would be met with the gravest approach.
Assisting matters is Jesse Bronstein’s handsome cinematography. It is accessed on an atmospherically appropriate palette; a beautifully blended collage of dusky colors and cheery hues. Such creates a wondrous visual interpretation of the opposing moods of the piece. Additionally, Gusta Johnson provides sensational editing. Cecilia Lewis’ makeup is every bit as exceptional as these aforementioned traits. Joseph Iacobazzo’s sound is top-notch. The proficient turns from the camera and electrical department, which consists of Mihai Bodea-Tatulea and Adehm Geller, heightens immeasurably the intimacy evident in this gathering. They help construct a closeness so palpable that one can easily relate to all who try to pull Nathan from his addiction in one manner or another. This makes the relation between viewer and narrative personality continually taut. It is so much so that its spectators can naturally find themselves sitting alongside these fictional protagonists; a silent bystander.
This Brooklyn, New York shot winner and Chirality Films release is also a masterclass in the power of brevity. In its brief runtime, Lofaso and Torres also successfully tackle the notion so prevalent in our society of feeling more of a bond, an excitement towards the proceedings of a popular television program than their our own personal measures. Such is utilized as an entry into the underlying commentary concerning the disconnect many of us impress upon ourselves. This is from the happenstance of our own existence. Perhaps this is an insight into Nathan afflictions. Either way, Lofaso and Torres have given us a chance to find the humor in ourselves. Yet, there are countless opportunities to reflect. All of this is implemented in a manner that is always respectful to the stern core of its commanding central themes. This is without ever falling into the trap of being pretentious, preachy or overwrought. What we are, ultimately, given is a largely dynamic, warm and inviting affair. This is a herculean display of cinematic storytelling and aptitude at its finest.