By Jonathon Potochnic

Citizen Jane Narrative Films

“In Case of Emergency” was screened at the 2017 Citizen Jane Film Festival.

Movies like “Alien,” “Juno,” “Amélie,” “Fargo” and “Rosemary’s Baby” illustrate the power that females can bring to films, especially as the leading character. With the growing prevalence of female-lead productions, continued excitement gathers around the diverse selection of films being put out by up-and-coming women in the field. Soon, some may even join the ranks of Patty Jenkins (“Wonder Woman”) and Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker,” “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Detroit”).

“In Case of Emergency” is not, unfortunately, going to help this movement. The plot follows a group of women struggling with status, substance and sexual desire. I’m not exactly sure what I got with “In Case of Emergency.” The message and purpose are so clouded, unexplored or both that I’m not entirely sure how to articulate an analysis for this film.  After hearing the writer-director-producer-lead actress Stefanie Sparks extensively describe the emphasis on realistic fecal matter during a scene where characters defecate on the floor, my empathy was out the door too.

Despite being a filmmaker myself and understanding the immense stress and potential struggles that come with the production process, I have little regard for “In Case of Emergency.” While it wasn’t nearly the worst movie I’ve ever seen and had some laughs to offer, my frustration mostly derives from this film’s missed opportunities.

The cinematography in “In Case of Emergency” was mediocre. I found the color grading in each shot to be competently crafted and the shots looked pretty crisp, but the shot selection and composition themselves struck me as a bit novice. The issue with a lot of the things on the technical side is that I noticed them. It felt as though a film student had written certain parts of the script with little thought in mind for the shot selection or scene composition. There was a scene where either wind or a character’s jacket brushes against the microphone, and it took me right out of the experience. The technical issues had me viewing the film as less cinematic than what it deserved, and therefore, I unintentionally minimized the movie’s importance for it.

While serviceable camera work and some laughs could’ve worked well in the right circumstances, the screenplay for “In Case of Emergency” doesn’t do the film any favors. If anything, it drags the movie down more. I thought the acting was pretty good from the leads, but the characters are poorly written and underdeveloped. Despite being a lower budget film and having a slower, character-driven narrative, I honestly can’t remember the character names of the leading actresses.

When the characters have an opportunity to do something memorable, cinematic or worthwhile, the film does a one-eighty. The dramatic elements were by far the most aggravating of the film. The motivations aren’t compelling, mostly dealing with one of the leads trying to use a co-worker for sex. The desires and fantasies are a bit strange for many of the characters, which is fine, but “In Case of Emergency” never seems to be able to articulate such areas well enough for audiences to digest. The stakes are so unfathomably small and devoid of purpose that the film misses the target for any form of intimacy.

“In Case of Emergency” has opportunities to go farther in a dramatic sense as well as in cinematic scope, but the screenplay takes every detour as if evading such chances. The acting was good, but, with little to work with, the actors and actresses were left to do their best with an ill-advised script. The gross-out humor came off as a bit juvenile, plainly put. The production value left me scratching my head due to confusing inconsistencies and the music was almost off-putting. Overall, “In Case of Emergency” challenges the title of entertainment in which it organizes itself.

3.3/10. Atrocious.

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