It’s definitely a change of pace to recommend a small, indie film for its special effects.
But Seattle-based David Russo’s trippy The Immaculate Conception Of Little Dizzle is as much about style over substance as any movie ever greenlit in an office in Burbank. Fresh from the Sundance fest, it’s an object demonstration of how accessible digital FX are to even the most budget-constrained filmmaker these days.
The artist/filmmaker jumps this contemporary slacker/sci-fi tale’s batteries from the opening scene — in which a message-in-a-bottle makes a frenetic journey across the ocean in electrified seconds.
The recipient of the less-than-inspiring message is Dory, a student-loan-burdened young office drone whose data entry job ill befits his actual computer abilities.
After “going postal” and smashing a gabby co-worker’s cellphone, he finds himself forced to take a night-janitor job at an office tower. There he is taken in by an oddball team of colleagues, including a part-time artist named O.C. (Vince Vieluf) who, being an artist, grandiosely overthinks his job (the urinal is “an exit meeting a point of entry”), and who do their best to squeeze fringe benefits from their thankless work — including getting high on the rooftop during their breaks.
Among their fringe benefits: Free cookies from a food lab that is endeavouring to chemically perfect a fresh-from-the-oven packaged treat (it even smokes in your mouth on contact with saliva). What the gang doesn’t know is that they’re guinea pigs for an untested additive — a brainstorm by a later conscience-plagued young researcher named Tracy (Natasha Lyonne).
This is all the excuse Russo needs to make The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle into a 90-minute exercise in heightened reality. Shots are seldom more than a few manic seconds, the cookies’ psychotropic side effects are played out in every way imaginable, from acid-washed “tracers” to chemical ingredient lists that appear on the walls of a shower. The director’s FX exercises often betray a fair bit of wit — as when janitor pals/lovers Ethel and Methyl (Tania Raymonde and Tygh Runyan) have sex on a CEO’s desk, with black bars judicially popping up to cover naughty bits.
For all that, it’s hard to escape the fact that Russo’s story is slight when you strip away the bells and whistles. It has an obvious arc (the cookies only affect the males, and digestive discomfort soon morphs into a gestational side-effect hinted at in the title). And when they discover their guinea pig roles, you expect the characters to seek redress (and that does seem to be where they’re going). But Little Dizzle doesn’t follow through with a satisfying last act. Ultimately, the characters act in ways that seem unlikely — unless you believe apathy trumps all with this particular generation (what letter are we up to anyway? Y? Z?), even in the most wildly outrageous circumstances.
Still, this is an impressively energetic feature debut by Russo, one that certainly justifies some studio giving him the keys to bigger and more impressive toys to enhance his storytelling.
(This film is rated 14A)