Erin (Jo Scott) has high hopes for her dinner party but as the expression goes, life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. Unfortunately for Erin her husband Isaiah (Michael Brunlieb) isn’t much help and when her sister Tanya (Emma Pope) and Tanya’s fiancee Matt (Damian Anaya) arrive, things get awkward fast. First there’s Matt and Tanya’s new found religious beliefs which perplex and annoy Erin and Isaiah who are self-proclaimed atheists. Erin has hidden all the alcohol from her newly sober sister and has banished all phones from the dinner table. Bored Isaiah needles the guests for his own amusement. While the conversation becomes increasingly hostile, Erin’s neglected pie bursts into flames. As the painful, passive aggressive interactions between these four individuals comes to a climax, one of them will have a near death experience that will forever change the lives of each person and their relationships with each other. This dinner-party-turned-existential-crisis opens up new possibilities for the characters and for the viewer as well.
“Death is this inevitable thing that we don’t have any control over.”
Scraps is directed by Daniel Shar and made on an incredibly low budget of just under $2k. With its theatrical run in Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles, that number bumped up but stayed under $6k. Filmed in Chicago and set in one apartment, the film stars a small cast of well-known local sketch and improv comedians. This dark comedy has moments of both absurdity and deep reflection. There are some philosophical discussions about relationships, faith, and the meaning of life and death. The low budget enables the filmmakers to really focus on the meat of the story, stripping away all the excess that a bigger budget would allow for but would perhaps distract from the real message.
Scraps is an interesting study in gender dynamics, romantic relationships and individuality all delivered by means of surreal humor. These characters are frustrating. They are truly awful, especially the men. However it’s incredibly satisfying to watch how they face some harsh realities about their lives and relationships. It’ll be cathartic for viewers who are feeling stuck in their current situations.
This film may not be for everyone. I get a sense that an appreciative viewer is one who is in the right headspace for it. I felt nitpicky about a few things like the undressed salad on the dinner table (for continuity?) and the medical reasoning behind the near death experience (I can’t tell you any more without spoiling the plot). Also, as someone who is formerly religious I felt that the arguments about faith were fairly weak. There’s a secondary story with a pizza delivery guy that is fairly strained but has a sweet conclusion. Even with my reservations about certain aspects of the film, I felt quite moved by the story and by the end I started to have my very own existential awakening.