Reviewer: John Carpenter
Release date: 9/22/2012 (Fantastic Fest)
Aiden (Josh Lawson) is a struggling photographer. He will pop up on a crime scene from time to time; shoot the breeze with a detective and Alcoholics Anonymous partner named Pete (Ron Perlman) then head back to his apartment to ogle at his neighbor Virginia (Emma Lung). This is a typical day for Aiden. What most people around him don’t know is that despite his quiet, somewhat cowardly outside appearance, Aiden has an internal rage that is always on high alert. As Aiden observes various struggles in his daily life, this vivid imagination kicks into high gear. Internally, Aiden is a successful professional who kicks crime’s ass and always gets the girl. When he finally musters up the courage to make a move on Virginia, Aiden’s life seems to change. Some of that courage begins to seep out of Aiden’s mind and the world around him starts to get a lot more interesting.
The setup in “Crave” is where the meat of the story is. Typically, the use of voice-over narration can be a negative in storytelling. In “Crave” it works. Aiden is a man who has issues and this internal dialogue drives his motivations. It sets up viewers for multiple daydream sequences and even peppers in a bit of humor at times. As Aiden’s internal thoughts begin to slip out and become audible to those around him, “Crave” continues to build. If a word slips out now, what will slip out next? There is anticipation waiting for Aiden to exact revenge in the same manner. The problem is that this setup never really delivers a payoff. Rather than evolve Aiden’s ‘courage’ and bring all that he has in his mind out into the world, Lauzirika attempts to toy with the audience by blurring the lines of fantasy and reality throughout the feature. This tactic negates what could be some tense moments in the film. A late confrontation between Aiden and another character could have been powerful had Lauzirika not been winking at viewers during the altercation. Early in the movie this worked better. As the closing credits are getting closer and closer, to utilize the “Is this really happening?” technique leaves viewers feeling like they are standing in the same place with Aiden now as they were nearly two hours ago.
“Crave” shows glimmers of promise, which is typically the case with debut features. Writer/Director Charles de Lauzirika has a wealth of experience in the short documentary field and used this experience to his advantage. “Crave” is well shot and gives attention to the actors without ignoring the details that separate a movie from a documentary. Rather than minimalize the number of locations, Lauzirika is comfortable taking his characters out of their apartments and embracing the world around them. This adds a little spice to “Crave” and quietly explains why some of the characters are guarded and hardened in their daily routines. One of the biggest obstacles for a film can be financing. It is obvious that “Crave” needed a trim here or there to keep the budget in check. There are moments when the CGI blood is effective and others when it is an ineffective distraction. Credit should be given to Lauzirika for setting out to tell a story and not allowing the budget to dictate his creative control.
“Crave” delivers a decent setup with very little payoff. Aiden is a character that could have gone a variety of ways, but after a lengthy 113 minutes, he feels like the friend who won’t go home after a house party. In his feature debut, Charles de Lauzirika showed he has the technical skills to shoot a movie on a limited budget. Unfortunately, “Crave” never really gets out of second gear as it attempts to drive viewers to the finish line.