Shit Year (2011)
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Critic Reviews for Shit Year
While I admire Archer's attempt to tackle the well-worn path of the fading superstar narrative with ingenuity, his high-minded conceits muddy the vitality of Barkin's performance.
Archer's given a gift to Barkin fans, offering the actress a fully-developed central role that takes advantage of her reflexive ability to shape her character's deep insecurities with an overlay of lived-in confidence and power.
Barkin is nobly committed to the film's dreamlike reality. But neither the script nor the self-conscious camerawork gives her story any depth.
A teeth-gnashing example of film-school pretentiousness...
These poses and pretty rooms may accurately reflect Colleen's visual aesthetic, the world she inhabits or wants to, but whether hers or Mr. Archer's, it's not compelling.
Audience Reviews for Shit Year
"Shit Year" wins the award for best movie title of the year but definitely not best movie of the year. It is a highly avant-garde hand-made film shot on black-and-white video. Ellen Barkin plays a famous screen actress around age 60 just realizing how alone she is. She has just had a brief affair with a 22-year-old actor who had co-starred with her in a play, and the affair has left her in a funk. It's not clear whether she has fallen in love with him or just cannot stomach being single anymore. Writer/director Cam Archer, who is not particularly deep, seems to have written the 22-year-old into the script just so he could film a nearly naked 22-year-old boy. And he does so with all the depth of a Calvin Klein ad. The attention to the main character is fairly deep, but not enough to trigger much caring on the part of the audience. I was mostly bored while watching "Shit Year." The avant-garde techniques weren't that interesting either. The film is more like theater than cinema. The actors step in front of the camera the way an actor would step onto a bare stage to do a scene. They perform what are basically monologues to give you a sense of what the character might be going through. Nothing is meant to be realistic -- more like re-enactment of pivotal moments in someone's life, where the audience understands that it is seeing highly stylized, fragmentary re-enactments, not the actual occurrences. This distancing effect and the general use of techniques from stage drama and art video I found moderately interesting. But for this kind of thing to work in cinema, it has to take one's breath away. The audience also has to care deeply about something. None of this happened in "Shit Year." Barkin gives a good performance. (When is Barkin not fabulous?) But unfortunately she's lost in a movie that never takes off.
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