This comic short has been playing before every feature shown over the last three or four days at the Tribeca Film Festival. Directed by David Gray for Ogilvy New York, it’s about a nebbishy flasher (Doug Moe) who hits it off with one of the women he’s tried to shock. Moe and the women playing the would-be victims (Jennifer Morris, Jennifer Bowen) are appealing and amusing, but the piece doesn’t work after the friendly-flirty stuff begins. I’ll explain why in a second.
Ogilvy creative directors Dustin Duke and Jon Wagner have been quoted as saying that the short’s “basic premise is that New Yorkers have seen everything — flashers, drug dealers, prostitutes, muggers, mobsters — and have become immune to it all. [So the short is] honoring New Yorkers’ resilience and optimism and ability to turn an unpleasant and negative situation into something that is positive and opportunistic.”
That’s true regarding the smiling 40ish brunette who’s open to having coffee (i.e., Morris). New Yorkers aren’t easily shocked and are open to spontaneous feeling, etc. Except the short only half-expresses this because Moe’s flasher doesn’t adapt.
Humor isn’t humor unless it connects to reality, and flashers, make no mistake, are about aggression and rage. Like rapists, they’re expressing contempt and loathing for their victims. So what should’ve happened (i.e., if Gray had been a better director) is that Moe would have stopped flashing after he hits it off with whatsername. He’d drop the hostility and fully surrender to her smile and spirit instead of what he does, which is laugh and grin and flirt and continue to show the monster.
By the end of the piece Moe’s character is saying (a) “hey, I’d love to go out with you!” and (b) “I still despise you so much that the possibility that I might continue to inspire revulsion despite our repartee gives me a wonderful sense of sociopathic satisfaction.”
This is what mediocre directing is all about — i.e., failing to take the reality of the human condition into account. If Alfonso Cuaron or Luis Bunuel or Wes Anderson or Mike Nichols had directed this short, it would have ended — trust me — with Moe buttoning his coat.