Tuesday, October 27, 2015
The Strange Review: Coherence
The term "indie movie" gets thrown around a lot, but no one can quite explain what exactly constitutes an "indie movie". After all, many a movie with small budgets and unknown actors manage to break into the mainstream: "The Blair Witch Project", "Paranormal Activity", "The Babadook", "It Follows" the list goes on and on, and while those films may have gotten where they are by excellent word of mouth, a realistic mystique or an endorsement from an established Hollywood mucky-muck, this film has none of that going for it. You'd think that'd hurt it but "Coherence", at least to me captures the full essence of what people mean when they say "indie movie". No, it's not dealing with themes of sexuality, no it's not a coming of age story like so many indie movies are and no, it's not a horror movie.
"Coherence" is a down-to-earth sci-fi/mystery film that manages to do SO much with so VERY little. The driving force of this movie isn't action sequences or well known actors (bare in mind the only "well known" actor in this film is Nicholas Brendon, and if you didn't have to Google him, then understand that you're in the minority) the driving force of this film is the characters. I came across "Coherence" completely by accident on IMDB of all places. I can't exactly explain how I came across it, but I did and just from a brief synopsis of the plot "Friends at a dinner party endure strange occurrences during a meteor shower", I knew I had to learn more. I went into this movie as cold as I possibly could and enjoyed every minute it. If you haven't seen "Coherence" I REALLY suggest you check it out, it's slow burning but it's all for a reason and you won't be disappointed if you're looking for a good sci-fi/mystery that doesn't get bogged down in science jargon that it can't tell a good story. To say more would be to give spoilers so I won't, go see "Coherence" now! After the break I WILL be talking spoilers!
Okay, so by now you've either seen "Coherence" or you really don't care about spoilers, either way, welcome! So let's talk "Coherence". For those of you who are here and haven't seen the movie, here's what's up: The meteor shower essentially opens up a gateway to multiple universes around Mike's house, and after Hugh and the others venture outside the house the characters get jumbled up and try to figure out not only which house is in their universe but which member of their group is from their universe. That's about the most coherent (pun intended) abridging of the plot I can give you, because it gets complicated REAL quick.
What worked for me is the fact that the characters for the most part didn't have a solid grasp on what exactly was going on, Nicholas Brendon's character Mike played an actor and his character was on the TV show "Roswell", so Mike had some understanding of the science fiction realm, but Hugh seemed to be the go to guy for all the science jargon and even he was at a loss for words. Hugh got most of the jargon from his brother who isn't in the film but his presence is felt in the fact that because of him, Hugh is the only character who knows what's going on, BUT is also the catalyst that begins the primary conflict of the film.
I love how the film mounted seemingly unimportant moments only to bring them back and make them a thousand times more relevant. The part that got me was when Emily realized that Beth and Lee were having a conversation about the vase, something that had already happened in Emily's universe. Hearing that the first time and then hearing it again COMPLETELY changed the context of that entire conversation and made it BONE-CHILLING and that's the mark of good writing. Not to mention the subtle character points that were brought up, with the tension between Emily & Kevin/Kevin & Laurie/Mike & Kevin/Mike & Hugh. Granted, Mike & Beth sleeping together is sort of overly dramatic, but when you add the fact that this only occurred in a few of the universes, it does change the dynamic.
Writers James Ward Byrkit & Alex Manugian have some MAJOR chops, because "Coherence" gets MORE interesting as you discover how the film came together. Lifting this straight from Wikipedia;
"...instead of having a script, each actor was given a page of notes each day with their back story or sort of motivation for the night. But they wouldn't know what the other actors had received so it had a very natural, very spontaneous collision of motivations that ended up being what you see on film; obviously guided by a very strict outline that we have been working on for about a year that tracked all the clues and the puzzles and all the rehearsals and things like that. But the actors weren't aware of those, those things happened because we were sort of guiding them through it."
And THIS, THIS is essentially what an indie movie SHOULD BE. "Coherence" doesn't feel like a movie, it feels like a Stage Play, and in all honesty, this could be done as a stage play. Just the idea of keeping actors in the dark makes this so much cooler because the final product is something the actors would have to see to get the full story. As someone who personally dreams of putting on an interactive theater play one day, I am now very invigorated to try it out because of how amazing "Coherence" turned out.
James Ward Byrkit has a long future ahead of him if he keeps up with the cleverness of writing he showed in "Coherence". Granted, while "Coherence" was a getting struck by lightning moment and shouldn't attempt to be duplicated, the idea behind it (ie, getting the most out of the least, stripping a film down to motivations instead of actions and dialogue and telling a good story) is something that all films should follow. "Coherence" is an "indie movie" that isn't stuck in stereo-typical "indie movie" B.S. where you have to be a member of the NPR crowd to really appreciate the subtle nuances of this or that and sit through subtitles just because watching a film with subtitles somehow makes you superior. No, "Coherence" is an "indie movie" because it relies on exactly what movies are supposed to rely on to tell a good story, the characters and the plot, not money, not special effects and bankable movie stars (Looking at you Warner Bros./DC).
In conclusion, I give "Coherence" an A+. I can't think of a single thing that was wasted and while many people don't like open ended movies, how else would you end a movie like this? Hell, the ending is actually another movie in and of it's self and that's ultimately what makes "Coherence" so good, the quite literal ENDLESS possibilities. Anyways, that'll do it for me, I'll see you guys next time.