VOD REVIEW: MOTIVATIONAL GROWTH / CERT : TBC / DIRECTOR: DON THACKER / SCREENPLAY: DON THACKER / STARRING: JEFFREY COMBS, ADRIAN DIGIOVANNI, DANIELLE DOETSCH / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 30TH (VOD)
Don Thacker’s debut feature is early Darren Aronofsky by way of Kevin Smith directing an aborted script by David Cronenberg. Motivational Growth being the idiosyncratic microcosm of Ian Foliver (DiGiovanni), a bearded deadbeat, 16 months into a self-imposed isolation. His primary contact is with his old TV - a family heirloom he’s bizarrely named Kent.
Making it through the first ten minutes is a tall order, but when Ian starts talking to the camera, it’s an altogether more watchable movie. Despite his filthy vest and y-fronts, he’s strangely charismatic, spouting philosophical ramblings and existential thoughts on shitting. It’s an unsettling film, most definitely, but it’s not without humour.
When Kent breaks down, Ian decides to kill himself. While the suicide is inventive but ultimately unsuccessful, Ian discovers a sentient mould living in his bathroom that makes it his duty to make Ian better. Jeffrey Combs is deliciously devilish as the fatalistic Mould, giving his best Elvis inspired drawl, and the practical effects are show stealing. Under The Mould’s evangelist guidance, Ian cleans up his apartment and personal hygiene, and obsesses over the girl who passes by his door every day.
The film doesn’t follow a traditional structure, instead playing out as a fever dream, filled with deranged characters, seeming to be neither living nor dead. It’s a world where The Mould has Ian eat a trippy mushroom and drink from a demonic looking breast growing out of the wall.
For those weaned on the NES, the score is going to be a delight, though it does get tedious quickly. There’s also the odd bit of animation thrown into the mix, which looks like it's playing on a Gameboy Colour. Make no mistake, this is very much a gamers' movie; the strange narrative and Ian’s seemingly endless lives give you the impression that you’re watching someone give a strange indie game a go.
Motivational Growth would have worked better as a series of weekly shorts released online, but as a whole film, it doesn’t quite work. The unconventional narrative, however, is worth applauding, experiments are worth the gamble, and Thacker is surely one to keep an eye on.