The Animal Project (2013)
Taking a break from the attack of summer movie mayhem (and upon recommendation) I recently directed my eyes towards a genuine engaging surprise of a film, Canadian indie dramedy, The Animal Project. I should clarify that one of the main reasons why I headed out to catch this flick is because of the pseudo underdog allure surrounding writer/director Ingrid Veninger and her homegrown pUNK FILMS label. The very nature of the term “punk” makes me think of daring works not afraid to pummel the system and challenge the audience-mind with substance fueled cinema (nonetheless entertaining) but still persistent with the filmmaker’s effort to ultimately say something. Establish a voice amidst the resounding contemporary cinema daze.
Sound ambitious? I think so, as nowadays it would appear that most mainstream films (Canadian or not) either do one or the other, yet Veninger’s The Animal Project (despite being made on the “cheap”) confidently takes a stance against all things familiar when we hear the sometimes defying words “cheap” and “Canadian” used simultaneously in the same sentence.
The film focuses on an acting-teacher’s attempts to coach his students into finding something “real” (or truthful) within themselves, their work, and obviously, the bigger audition being how we perform in our day-to-day lives. Contrasting this external/internal search for authenticity within the craft, the film’s acting-teacher/protagonist, Leo, also struggles to balance this sense of longing for legitimacy with his own adolescent son who is possibly wandering down the road to estrangement from his thirty-something father (debatably only a child in his own right).
While the film is multi-layered, and we truly get a sense of every single character that defines this “misfit” rag-tag troupe of thespians, nothing ever felt too over-done for me, or too melodramatic. I found the movie consistently hit this pitch-perfect tone of spunk pleasantry, but while presenting this charming thirst, The Animal Project slyly manages to shed its claws grappling with touchier issues. Themes of what it means to form relationships, experience the ups and downs of life’s not-always-functioning elevator — The Animal Project left my mind with this existential notion that figuring out our loves and desires during our time on this planet, and then acting on these dreams, our ambitions, our goals, the relationships we long for, this is ultimately what it all boils down to.
The Animal Project concerns a bunch of individuals literally masking their identities physically as a means to absolutely reach a sort of soulful nakedness that puts them in touch closer with their truer selves. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t heavy duty stuff in terms of what type of watch this film is, but by the end, The Animal Project does indeed possess this quiet poignancy that tells the fully-functioning filmmaker me that at all costs, against all odds, no matter how impractical the task at hand, KEEP CREATING, because there’s always the alternative, and as we all know, the alternative to not doing bears a lot in common with giving up.