“I want to be somebody else but they’re all taken,” might very well encapsulate the basic idea of Edgar Muñiz’s portrait of his alter ego’s struggle to craft a script that has a message to which others can relate.
In what could be titled All About Eva, the complex heroine (Laura Benson who also co-wrote the feature) is in the thick of trying to complete her masters’ thesis. In this case, it’s a three-person play whose scenes and dialogue shift in concert with Eva’s insular personal life. Both manage to successfully push away lovers, advisors and actors until the stage of her red wine, “instant” food existence is so bare that it can only be discussed through otherwise useless audition tapes; tapes filled to overflowing with the confessions of equally dispirited souls who fantasize that playing someone other than themselves will be the ticket to happiness and joy.
Intriguingly, Muñiz has Eva decked out largely in black-and-white, with a full-length white scarf encircling what will become a disturbingly vulnerable neck. The symbolism of giving such an intimate garment to the only woman of the play-within-the-film’s cast (Zuleika Gallo, displaying a wide range of emotion from engaging playfulness to abject terror). Using slow motion, acoustic and electric guitars and carefully inserted up shots to the cloudy heavens above, a thoughtful tone is established (although many will find this deliberately “andante” tempo too slow for comfort).
The only authority figure is Eva’s project advisor who is heard (via telephone) but never seen. His sincere interest and gentle proddings become yet another invisible element of myriad thoughts and ideas swirling through the troubled playwright’s psyche.
The other two men in her life become prime examples of how Eva lures the opposite sex into her lair, has her way with them, then lets them vanish from her continuously distant “you.”
Ken (Joe Freeman, buff in his boxers and a model of affability) and Eva are fuck buddies: Ken’s cheating on his near-perfect wife (“everybody loves her”) and only tries to rekindle his marriage after his raging “blue balls” finally find relief only to have his ego/libido severely withered with one caustic remark: “You don’t make me cum anymore.” Still, laughing at his mistress’ experimental, stylized dialogue (code for crap) is not the sort of foreplay that inspires carnal bliss.
Aspiring neophyte actor, Samuel (the metamorphosis of Daniel Eugene McCarty from no-chance-for-a-part to last-chance-for-unrequited-love is a considerable accomplishment) is ordered about by the director with sarcasm, cruelty and disdain; yet those innocent fingers around the now uncovered neck …. Clearly Eva didn’t want experienced actors, they would never tolerate her rude, domineering nature and walk before the first read-through was over. Yet flinging herself at men who are already attached (Samuel does have a girl friend) unmistakeably contributes to the self-fulfilling prophecy of the inadequacy of self.
Benson has to carry most of the film and is at her best in the many wordless segments where Muñiz’s cinematographic and, later, editing skills paint a compelling silent portrait of a woman whose life is a constant rewrite. Only a bit more despair lurking in the emotional weeds of the spoken lines (the scene with all of the cast and their “That’s what directors do” commandant is a gem) would bring the characterization into the realm of outstanding. But that too, like her on-stage persona, will come once the message emerges to the satisfaction of the system. JWR