Motivational Growth is one seriously twisted, fascinating and occasionally imperfect film which deals with a depressed shut-in's relationship with a smooth talking mold in his bathroom. Yep, talking mold - we're going there for reals.
The day starts off with Ian's beloved TV set going kaput ... leaving him with little reason to live. After a failed suicide attempt the incredibly well spoken huckster of a mold colony begins to talk Ian through a makeover of sorts. Which given that he's been in the house for over a year and desperately wants to meet his super adorably cute neighbor strikes Ian as more reasonable than it would most folks. The film has some super well rendered (and often absolutely repulsive) physical special effects, some very strong performances, and perhaps one of the most well rendered and disturbingly realistic takes on loneliness and desperate isolation resulting in giving up on the world that I've seen in quite a while. It's twisted in a range of ways, very well shot, though as I'll get to some things that I didn't absolutely love. But it's a unique vision that's worth a look. Even if you may occasionally look away while you're watching it.
The performances play a strong role in the positive aspects of Motivational Growth starting perhaps with The Mold (who is very clear about the the part) which is voiced by Jeffrey Combs who is perhaps best know from Re-Animator. The harder to carry off role of Ian is handled well by Adrian DiGiovanni who balances the need to be appealing (or at least likable) while presenting on screen as a slovenly disturbing mess with oozing looking bed sores. Danielle Doetsch is perfectly cast as the girl next door who's improbably interested in hanging out with Ian after he's cleaned up a bit.
The look of the film is pretty fantastic. It looks like everything is done via physical (vs. computer generated) effects - and the production quality is top notch. Director Don Thacker has a lot going on even though the entire story takes place within an apartment. In part because part of the tale brings Ian inside his TV set where Thacker has created a slew of just slightly off kilter TV shows for the character to interact with in his quest to determine just what the hell is going on. Something for the record I'm not really sure I ever figured out.
As things progress and get weirder (and yes, a film that starts with a guy talking to mold does indeed get stranger over time) I did tend to get a bit lost with where the story was going. I don't think things would suffer with a little bit more editing. And while I love ambiguity up to a point there's either something I missed in the storyline or a smidge less tying things up at the end than I'd like. But the first third is so strong, and the vision so delightfully bat shit crazy that this is definitely something worth checking out. Even if you may occasionally look away while you're watching it.
At least if you enjoy things that can be uncomfortable and may make you retch a bit.
Motivational Growth screens at the Seattle True Independent Film Festival (STIFF) on Monday May 6th at 6pm.