Charlotte is a young woman with dreams of becoming an actress but like most aspiring actors, work is tough to come by. She makes ends meet by working at a sleazy bar and its there she meets filmmaker David Long after he's beaten senseless by a bouncer. The two hit it off and they both believe the other one will be the key to helping them achieve their goals. Charlotte will finally be a leading lady and David will finally be able to complete his masterpiece film. It's too bad for Charlotte that David has some very dark and deadly plans for his leading lady.
Three years of production and one successful Kickstarter campaign later comes the new horror movie from director Joe Stauffer, "Pieces of Talent". I only came across the movie recently myself when I saw it listed on a film festival's schedule. The plot description that I read didn't really catch my attention but the trailer was highly intriguing, and visually interesting. And certainly I was a bit pessimistic going into the movie at first but "Pieces of Talent" turned into a wonderful surprise.
David Long is a director who is obsessed with making the perfect art film. So obsessed he is even willing to kill people in order to make the perfect movie. When he crosses paths with Charlotte -- a young, pretty woman trying to make it as an actress -- outside the bar where she works, they immediately strike up a friendship. Charlotte sees her chance to finally make it in a movie and David believes he has found the star he needed to make the movie he has wanted to. Unbeknownst to Charlotte, this may be her first and last gig.
The trailer, while very enticing, keeps things vague but considering that the movie is about a killer making a movie, I can't say I wasn't too optimistic about the story. I've never been keen on movies about people making movies, especially if they are in the horror genre. However, I couldn't have been more wrong with my faulty preconceived notions of what "Pieces of Talent" was going to be. The movie is actually carefully and intelligently constructed that blends small bits of drama with horror and artistic stylings. It's a horror movie but doesn't always feel like it. It looks like an arthouse movie at times but it's not pretentious about it. Well, at least I didn't think so.
The story and the characters, particularly David Long -- who's playing himself -- definitely make the movie stand and it's one of the key elements that I liked most about it. The movie doesn't actually focus on the horror too much or the killings for that matter. In fact, the body count is very small in "Pieces of Talent". And while you watch the movie, it appears that David is simply a deranged killer who is committing these heinous crimes under the guise of creating art and making a movie. As the movie progress though we get to see that there is much more to it than that and much more to David. What's especially nice about it is how it is done subtly.
In a scene where David is out with Charlotte he begins telling her why he is out doing his own solo project and, in general, it just seems like a nonsense story the character is telling to keep up his ruse. If you pay attention though, the casual story actually explains not only the movie but why David is doing what he is doing -- in terms of the killings. That there is a reason to the madness. It was a moment that pretty much allowed the movie to win me over as it showed the kind of effort that was put into "Pieces of Talent". There are other moments like that -- particularly two abstract short-films that are placed within the actual movie -- scenes that feel random and don't have any barring on the story but it isn't until you step back and focus do you realize their significance.
That casual and subtle manner is what's so impressive about the movie. How willing it is to let the story and the details come naturally. It's easy enough to watch it and have the whole thing come off as a simple horror movie about a guy killing people for the sake of making a movie. When you actually watch though and pay attention do you see that there is much more to "Pieces of Talent". And I don't mean that in the sense of it being multi-layered -- having to read between the lines to get the actual story -- but that it's a bit more methodical in its delivery and goes for a more subdued nature instead of intensity and just getting in your face. It's even done with the death scenes too. Instead of using the rather extremely violent scenes as a selling point, they are used more as a punctuation of a scene and that part of the story.
Now "Pieces of Talent" isn't ground breaking or perfect by any means. It has its flaws like any other movie. For me, I found that the pacing was off at times. There are certain scenes where it felt like the movie came to a stop as opposed to a steady flow. Or that some things might not work if you were to logically break them down. However, what's good about the movie is what does work shines past those faults. It's an intelligent movie and features a great deal of creativity to it. Joe Stauffer even goes so far as to take advantage of the fact that the main character is a disillusioned and crazy filmmaker and plays around with the reality of "Pieces of Talent".
Maybe it was my low expectations going into the movie is the reason why I walked away rather impressed with the movie, but I don't believe that's true simply because it is very clear that the movie was carefully thought out. Sure, it has flaws but what does work in the movie works very well. It's a great story that keeps developing as it progresses. Is it a movie about obsession? Or is it about revenge? Both perhaps. And overall, the focus on the different aspects of "Pieces of Talent" from the characters to the actual horror elements and the more surreal artistic moments helped make the movie more interesting than some would expect.