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Review: The Contrast – “Based on a play of the same name from 1787”

Occasionally there is a film so rough that it falls into the ‘I watched it so you don’t have to’ category, and unfortunately, The Contrast is one of those films. 

The Contrast is based on a play of the same name from 1787 by Royall Tyler, which has the distinction of being the first professionally produced play in America.  It’s easy to grasp that this film is an adaptation of an earlier work, as screenwriter Chris Johnson’s attempts to make the story more contemporary are meagre at best.  While the original play is said to have portrayed the contrast between American and British ideals, something that would obviously have been very timely, the updated version (while having one British character perhaps as a nod to the original) doesn’t deal with much other than a basic rom-com scenario that shows its hand within the first few scenes.

In this version of The Contrast, we meet Maria (Joy Villa) and Dimple (yes that’s his name, played by Lee Donoghue) as they arrive at an Inn, named the Royall Tyler in recognition of the playwright, for their nuptials the next day.  Dimple is a rude, gum chewing, scarf-wearing idiot who has no real redeeming qualities and it’s made very clear we are meant to dislike him from the opening scenes.  The couple is joined by her friends Jenny (Thanh Ta) and Charlee (Deanna Rashell).  Unsurprisingly, Dimple has no friends at this wedding.

Charlee and Jenny have their doubts as to whether this wedding should move forward at all, and they soon learn so does Maria.  She’s marrying more out of obligation to her father than love.  So of course when Charlee’s handsome brother Henry (Jermain Hollman) shows up we know where this is going.  We will try and forget about the fact that Maria has never met the brother of one of her best friends or even knows what he looks like.  They explain this away by saying he’s been on tour overseas, but this is a detail that likely worked better in 1787 than in the days of social media.  From here, things progress largely as you would expect.  

Look, it takes talent and hard work to make a film, so I am continually impressed that filmmakers (in this case co-directors Sean Dude and Presley Paras) get their work out there.  No films reach our screen without dedication to the craft.  I just wish that this particular film had more going for it that I could tell you about.  The acting is not wonderful.  Someone ACTUALLY slips on a banana peel.  There is a needless attempted sexual assault scene.  There is dialogue such as “I don’t need any of you.  I can grow my man bun back.”  At one point in a scene towards the end of the film, the camera legitimately goes out of focus.  So while it gives me no joy to say it, I’d steer clear of The Contrast, but if you do decide to watch it, the one redeeming factor you’ll find is it’s only 82 minutes.  I’ll give the filmmakers full credit for that.

The Contrast is available on digital platforms January 18, 2022.

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