I Play With the Phrase Each Other – A Slamdance Film
I Play with the Phrase Each Other is done entirely on a cellphone, with people on cell phones. Filmed in black and white with an iPhone and a 35mm lens, the film tracks a few key characters, the awkward and nervous Jake, his attractive ex-girlfriend in turmoil Erin, the wheeler-dealer Sean, and friend-to-all Zane, all having conversations on their cellphones. Is this an old gimmick? Yes and it is not new. In fact, I wrote a screenplay with this gimmick in the seventh grade. I’ve edited plenty of stories that were similar. Phone Booth had a similar idea. However, I Play with the Phrase Each Other is good. It is one of those instances where an idea many have had, a film that is only dialogue or a film focused on phone calls, actually works instead of just sounding good.
The dialogue at the beginning of the film doesn’t sound like a couple of teens or early twenties talking. It sounds like Alan Ginsberg’s marijuana-induced declarations of society. They ramble on so intelligently and smoothly that it’s totally incoherent. The beginning of the film can be summed up as such: “This sucks and it sucks because society sucks.” And “Yes, it does.” The beginning of the film, as a whole, is a weak point. This plane’s liftoff is far more turbulent than its landing though.
The film’s biggest issue is that it is all dialogue. Not nearly enough is shown in the actions, even the mundane actions, of the characters. In a friendship, it’s seeing the mundane actions of another person in getting to know them that can be so wonderful. If the film is to succeed it must do this. The dialogue is also too perfect and not nearly characterized enough. Characters and their dialogue, silhouetted, should still be discernible. But it seems painfully obvious that it was the same guy who wrote all their dialogue as they could all be the same person.
However the film is not without its genius moments. A conversation towards the end is one of the most genius scenes I’ve seen in a while. The film, overall, is good. It just needs a little more time baking in the proverbial oven of the filmmaker’s mind.