Ever watch two people in public who are deep in conversation and wish you were able to hear what they were saying? Filmmaker Quincy Rose gives us just that opportunity with his new movie The Narcissists. A meta exploration on filmmaking, romantic relationships and friendships, this film makes us the fly on the wall of two separate sets of conversations. First there is the conversation between Oliver (Quincy Rose) and Max (Zachary Tiegen). Oliver is at a crossroads in his 5 year relationship with his girlfriend Cassi (Jessica DiGiovanni). Their apartment lease is up and they must come to the decision of to either move on from each other or to continue investing in their relationship. Max is the polar opposite of Oliver and has is always on the hunt for his next fleeting sexual conquest. Through their extended conversation, Max pushes Oliver to evaluate his relationship with Cassi. At the same time, Cassi is in conversation Letty (Augie Duke). Cassi is mild-mannered and consumed with conflicting thoughts on what to do about her relationship with Oliver. She’s also feeling the guilt of having cheated on Oliver. Letty is a free spirit, the female equivalent of Max, and is constantly provoking Cassi with outrageous statements and declarations, encouraging Cassi to think differently about sexuality and monogamy.
What makes this film meta is that Oliver is a filmmaker and the two parallel conversations are his idea for a new film he his making which is both about and not about himself. The beginning of the film is shot in black and white with Max and Oliver discussing the idea for the film. Then we see the actual film Oliver had in mind. Once we reach the end of that feature within a feature, left open-ended so the audience can decide the fate of Oliver and Cassi, we get to the interview portion of the film. The four characters become talking heads where they discuss their lives, relationships and what they think about the definition of the term narcissists.
One of my biggest complaints about films in general is that we don’t often get to spend enough time with the characters. I love that The Narcissists lingers enough to fully develop this quartet of players. It takes its time to flesh out their conversations, to show us the confrontations, the agreements, the disagreements, and the ups and downs of long form conversations. These characters really talk and the flow of discourse feels natural. There were a couple of times, especially with Max and Letty where I felt like they pivoted too drastically to some out-of-the-blue provocation. Otherwise it felt like I was watching real people having real conversations. The characters are all unlikable but this didn’t affect my curiosity.
The film was shot in Manhattan and Brooklyn and cinematographer Jason Krangel keeps a very still camera with long lingering shots. The subjects are filmed from afar in real settings with pedestrians and cars often blocking our view. The movie was shot on a small budget over five days and with a skeleton crew.
The Narcissists is a contemplative study on filmmaking and relationships that is not afraid to spend time with its characters. It’s inventive, quirky and oddly satisfying. In an age of quick cuts and short attention spans, The Narcissists offers something refreshingly different.
Gravitas Ventures has released The Narcissists is on VOD and the films is available on multiple platforms including iTunes.