I want to begin this review by saying that I am perfectly aware that independent filmmaking is hard. I have not made a feature length film, though I have worked on multiple short films and written and directed my own. All tiers of filmmaking deserve the same amount of respect, be it Disney’s ninth production of the year or an independent filmmaker’s debut. Despite art being loosely defined and one’s potential feelings about a film varying across an unimaginably large spectrum, critique at its core of a work of art such as this has the same fundamentals.
With all of that being said, to put it bluntly, Enthusiastic Sinners is my version of torture. It is two actors, admittedly dedicated to such a thankless project, sitting around and talking about endlessly boring things in between rounds of vigorous love making. The actors are in fact the saving grace, turning in believable performances despite the material that they are given. The plot concerns a married (which is a large plot point) police officer, called in to investigate gunshots. When he discovers that nothing is wrong, he has a long conversation with the woman in the home. This leads to the two of them having a lustful affair while her son is away that calls into question what they will do next. In theory.
I should probably explain why this film is so torturous to me. This is an independent film, one with little to no concern with the safety of its actors or their bodies. The scenes of vigorous love making are horrendous to watch, and as the scenarios get more and more ridiculous, I could barely look at the screen. I felt disgusted first for the actress, only to feel equal pity for both of them as the film continued.
In between these terrible scenes are terrible extended scenes of dialogue. The first scene is an immediate red flag. As soon as the good ol’ cop Bruce decides her house is safe, Shelby gives a whole monologue about her “idiot son and his idiot friends” who do idiot things because they are idiots. Luckily for them, she has kicked the previously mentioned idiots out of the house, and we jump cut to them in her bedroom. They go for a walk in the woods, where Bruce mentions that he used to be a musician. Cue his first of many dissertations, from Tim McGraw and Faith Hill being “pop country”, The Beatles being “overrated”, and Van Halen needing a comeback with the original lineup.
It admittedly gets a bit interesting at about the halfway point. Bruce handcuffs Shelby to a chair, because cop, and he loses the keys. Or at least I thought it was going somewhere, until it’s revealed that it was only him pranking her, bro. The power goes out in the house right before this happens, which does absolutely nothing for the “plot” and only serves as an abrupt end to the third scene of extreme nudity and allowing the filmmakers to shoot the rest by candlelight.
As my buddy Kern put it, “The idea that every film has to be about something really pains me.” I’ve tried to move past the idea that film has to be a combination of a perfect story and perfect craft. While plenty of films with both of those things exist, I can also respect a film that chooses an excess of one while making the other arguably less important, but still having enough of both to carry forward. The issue is, this film has neither the craft nor a story with enough quality to forgive the exploitative vibe that it gives off. The cinematography is competent, but horribly limited thanks to the budget. That’s not a problem if your story is good, but I did not find the story good enough to ignore the amateurish craft that adds little to the proceedings. When scenes don’t involve dialogue that reads like a student first draft, it might as well be porn.
I tip my hat to everyone involved for getting it done, especially the two actors, but that is where my appreciation for this film starts and ends. Beyond that, this is near completely irresponsible from a directing standpoint. I hope that these actors find work beyond this project, and I hope that the filmmaker can improve both his writing and his filmmaking from his next project. As it stands, this is not a good place to start.