Once upon a time there was a commercial for a company called Memorex in which jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald’s voice was employed to shatter a wine glass. The ad prompted viewers to ponder whether the flying shards were the result of Ella’s actual ear-splitting soprano hitting its highest register or of a faithful recording of it on high quality audiotape.
Just such a conundrum fuels the fires of Friction, the cinematic equivalent of that memorable Memorex classic. The film revolves around the love triangle which surfaces over the course of the summer at a camp in New Hampshire called Arts in Action when a vulnerable 15 year-old develops feelings for the wife of the director.
The movie was shot on a modest $100 budget by director Cullen Hoback who must have called in a ton of favors to complete the project. What makes the production unique is that all of the actors use their own names, and Amy and Jeremy Mathison are married t each other in real life, while August Thompson does a quite convincing job of looking like a pimply kid with a crush on one of his camp counselors.
The complication is that the lonely twenty-something encourages him, despite the fact that she not only has a husband but their toddler, Willie, to care for. The reason Amy doesn’t reject August’s overtures outright is because she resents being stuck raising a kid in the middle of nowhere when she’d rather be pursuing her dreams of finding fame as a singer or an actress. In fact, her hubby has no idea that she’s been secretly rehearsing to enter the upcoming New Hampshire Idol Contest.
The fun starts early on with Amy already bellyaching about how her Jeremy treats her like a gofer the day he asks her to drive to the station to pick up the newly-arriving camper who turns out to be August. After all, he had promised her a position as the head of the theater program, a plan that had to be abandoned due to declining enrollment. The bored housewife soon befriends and even confides in August, who’s mature beyond his years compared to her Peter Pan of a spouse who is still banking on becoming a rock star, career-wise.
Although August and Amy start sharing stolen moments alone in shadow-shrouded hideaways around campus, a girl August’s own age named Allie eventually comes along to gum up the works. She playfully seduces him by saying her fortune lollipop says they should make out. Now, we’re dealing with a messy love fourple.
The tension peaks during an outing to Boston when August and Amy are assigned the same hotel room, unbeknownst to Jeremy who’s holding down the fort back at the camp. “Do you want my body?” Amy teases. “Yes, are we having an affair?” the testosterone-sodden teenager responds impatiently.
Do they or don’t they? Are they acting or really in lust? Keeping you guessing about what’s transpired long after the closing credits roll is the apparent aim of this intriguing headscratcher. Everything leads to an enigmatic resolution which leaves the answers to the imagination, as if the romance genre’s novel version of The Blair Witch Project.
Is this real or a Memorex mockumentary? You’ll have to judge for yourself, because even this critic couldn’t tell the difference.
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 89 Minutes
Studio: Hyrax Films
To see a trailer for Friction, visit: http://www.behavebadly.com/trailer/