A successful comedy film is only as good as its jokes and the actors who tell them. In the case of Kestrin Pantera’s latest feature, Pretty Problems, there is such a disconnect between the tired jokes and the wooden actors that you may find yourself laughing out of pity like I did.
Boutique employee Lindsay (Britt Rentschler) and door to door energy salesman Jack (Michael Tennant) are simply going through the motions in a burnt-out, sexless marriage. When Lindsay unexpectedly makes the acquaintance of Cat, a wealthy socialite who invites the couple on a weekend retreat, it seems like the perfect opportunity to rekindle Jack and Lindsay’s romance. However, when the couple learns that Cat and her wealthy friends are far more eccentric than they let on, they have to survive the weekend and each other.
The above description sounds like the initial premise for a social horror film, which even the characters in the film continually allude to in several running “jokes”. Unfortunately, the only shocking element of Pretty Problems is its banal and bland execution. The exploration of wild and wealthy individuals should lend itself well to hilarity, even on a small budget. In fact, Pantera lays out a plethora of exciting narrative developments that had the potential to lead to laughs, from two sordid affairs to a mysteriously absent groundskeeper to houseguest that know far too much about Lindsay and Jack. However, each of those elements are barely revisited, creating a build-up with no punchline.
In its place are countless scenes of awkward partying and drinking that only makes the audience wish they were drunk while watching this poor attempt at a comedy. Even the actors themselves seem like they need to be buzzed to work on this feature, as nearly all of them deliver their lines with the stiffness of a 2×4.
The third act does try to create a purpose for the feature, with a message that focuses on how all people, even those with massive amounts of wealth, have problems. But the message’s delivery is hamfisted and about as enlightening as a trip to the DMV.
On the whole, the DMV might be the most equitable experience to watching Pretty Problems: they’re both painfully long, devoid of life, and make you wish you were doing literally anything else.
The Silver Lining
There’s a scene toward the end of the second act where every character dresses up in 1920s garb for a murder mystery party. While the overall bit is eye-roll inducing, it’s the first (and only moment) where the actors actually seem like they’re enjoying themselves, which I guess counts for something.
SXSW 2022 official selection, Pretty Problems, is coming soon to a screen near you.