It's party night when two sisters and a friend of the older one are home alone. Guys are coming over, and the fun is starting to brew. With each girl having a man around, it seems like it could be great night of fun and naughtiness. But what follows is a night of morbid surprises.
If you've missed our love for Thomas L. Phillips's "Special Dead", then you've either not paid attention, or you started visiting out site recently. It's a bit of a favorite over here, especially when it comes to mid-to-late 00's zombie flicks and onwards. Phillips has since made a couple of other movies that have gone unnoticed by us (perhaps due to the genres), but with "Quite a Conundrum" it was Phillips himself who crawled out of the whole and made us aware of it. Free from the splattery handicap violence and zombies, "Quite a Conundrum" offers just as many strong flavors but in a different way.
The movie is set in the house of two sisters (or rather, their parents). The sisters are Mimi and Kylene. Where Mimi, the older one, is a slutty party girl, Kylene is young, reasonable and prefers taking it slow. Mimi's friend Tabitha is about on the same page as Mimi, where it's all about having fun (and embarrassing Kylene). Earlier that day, Mimi slept with a fat, old man who works with her dad and quite ruthlessly called him a loser. Later that night, she's invited to the friend of Tabitha's boyfriend, and joining the party is Kylene's Christian born boyfriend Harris. Many names, I know, but bare with me. When the girls and guys are in the midst of their party that night, the old man returns. And he wants an apology from Mini. One that he's not getting, which leads to him shooting himself then and there. Enter chaos, angst, curiosity, wackiness, twists and simple, mindless entertainment - the main things "Quite a Conundrum" has to offer.
You see, the plot in "Quite a Conundrum" is one of the things that I am split about. It does quite push itself away from logic (let's just say it's a night of TOTAL bad luck). It trips itself over now and then, but somehow it's fine. "Quite a Conundrum" is wacked out enough, with eccentric personalities leading the way, that even though it tackles certain plot points in a strange way, by the end of it all we're enjoying the ride. The ending is hard to explain without spoiling it, but it was really fantastic. It brings out an emotion that the rest of the movie lacked: it spent its time being witty and crude without much remorse, and the finale goes the opposite direction. It snaps us back to reality (even though the movie didn't venture far from it to begin with) by being extremely, almost over-the-top, emotional over a past action. It really struck a chord with me, filling me with an emptiness that lingered through the end credits. I don't know what Thomas L. Phillips' plans with the ending were, but I found that to be the part that made the entire movie worth it.
The acting in the movie is hard to judge. The characters are supposed to be a bit "too much" and that's hard to handle. But sometimes I think it's also in the hands of the actors. There are a few moments that just don't work. The characters get annoying, babbly and a bit too hip. Most of the time it's good, though, and I especially fell for Erin Cline (who I also referred to as cute in my review of "Date Night" - I'll stand by that here as well). Her quirkiness fits perfectly, where some other actors' might not. She has her lows too, but the majority of the film is held up nicely much because of her and Emily Rogers. Emily Rogers plays Kylene and she works as a steady rock to hold while things get messy around her. Her character is not free from change, but she handles them perfectly. I'm not discrediting any of the actors in particular, they all have their ups and downs here.
"Quite a Conundrum" won't please everyone, but those who do enjoy it might be finding their future cult classic. Without being very close to either, it's taking large pieces of great variety: plot reminiscent of "Very Bad Things", indie film chatting like "Clerks", twists-and-turns like "Scream" and an ending like an arthouse movie. I'm aware that another review brought up both "Clerks" and "Scream", I'm not trying to steal here - it's actually the closest you can describe it as, while it still remains vastly different. No doubt, Phillips' has matured since the fun "Special Dead" but has not left his indie ways. It's not without some big flaws, but it won me over completely.