Loren Cass rating:
In Bad Habits (Malos Habitos), a reporter on TV says, “Mexico is drowning.” It rains relentlessly throughout the film, creating a mood of gloom and helplessness. The characters are also drowning, emotionally and psychologically, in this vivid allegory about obsession and faith.
Director Bross and co-writer Ernesto Anaya have created two infuriating lead characters. Matilda becomes a nun, thinking prayer, self-abnegation and mortification give her the power to save life and stop rain. Elena, an anorexic, cruelly punishes her young daughter, whom she fears will grow fat.
Bross uses the skills he gained as an award-winning director of commercials to make his first feature both visually and aurally potent.
For Bad Habits, actresses de Haro (Elena) and Ayala (Matilda) lost more than 20 pounds for their demanding roles. It adds an impressive quality to their performances. The eating disorders in the movie have a reality.
Bross and Anaya have fertile imaginations, and Bad Habits has some canny surprises. The movie leaves one knowing he has been through a powerful experience—it’s like being caught in a cold, hard rain.
Ten years from now, when his career has evolved, director Chris Fuller will look back on his first feature, Loren Cass , and think—that part was good, but why did I do that and that? Right now, the 21-year-old director, writer, actor, editor and producer shows no fear. He has the audacity of youth.
Loren Cass is 83 minutes of tortured angst. It is set in 1997 in St. Petersburg, Florida, a year after race riots that were initiated by the shooting of an African-American by a policeman. In the upheaval that followed, Fuller’s characters look for meaning in their empty lives.
The main trio are Cale (Fuller plays the role under the pseudonym Lewis Brogan), Jason (Maynard) and Nicole (Tabish). They are bored and wayward, without dreams or plans.
The dialogue between the lovers Cale and Nicole is particularly inspired:
“What are you doing tonight?”
What are you doing tomorrow night?”
Fuller says that in Loren Cass he tried to capture “the mind and soul of adolescence and translate it into images.” He tried to create “bits and pieces of the mind.” Unfortunately the minds he captures are often vapid. The angst of superficial characters doesn’t exactly brim with interest.
One bad choice Fuller makes is the four times he leaves the screen blank to emphasize the verbiage. When you’re wondering if the projector broke or if Fuller ran out of film, it’s a bad sign. It’s a film, Chris.
But Fuller does have promise. At this point his best asset is his ability to create tension. Unpredictability breeds tension, and Fuller is adept at it. He does have talent and can build on that.
Loren Cass is neither a success nor a failure. It has a young director who is a work in progress.
For a change of pace, you might want to listen to interviews that I conducted in the 70s and 80s, some of which were published in my book Voices from the Set: The Film Heritage Interviews (2000).
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