Coming into writer/director/producer Brian Petsos’ 2014 short film Ticky Tacky, you could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps you had stumbled upon some missed early Wes Anderson film. After all, there is the initial shot of the record stylus being placed on an LP thus establishing the source of the classical music which will make up the bulk of the soundtrack for this 15 minute short, and then there is the stylized wide-angle strictly-balanced establishing shot, in which, like many of Mr. Anderson’s set-ups, the right and left sides of the screen are practically mirror images of each other.
Fortunately, Mr. Petsos soon proves that he wants to be much more than just a slavish Anderson imitator as he puts his own unique stamp on what follows.
I’ve written before about just how hard I think it is to create a truly great short film and the hazards that both the screenwriter for this sort of film and the director face when it come to being able to establish unique characters that are not merely two-dimensional placeholders which move the plot along, and to providing an actual story with a beginning, middle, and end, rather than just shooting a scene and calling that a complete film.
Again. Petsos manages to avoid both of these pitfalls, giving his audience a compelling, even at times shocking story of a rich man who turns his mind to revenge for a perceived betrayal.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have the insanely talented Oscar Isaac to play the lead in your film, but as we know from Inside Llewyn Davis, even he can’t redeem everything he’s in. (Sorry, I know it’s kind of a cheap shot, but despite the acclaim for Davis, I really found myself disappointed by it.) In this case, Isaac certainly brings his “A” game, turning on an emotional dime and providing a truly compelling and at times downright terrifying protagonist. (Is that really the right word for this role? Hmm…)
Another smart move that Pestos makes is casting the young Julian Shatkin as Isaac’s aide de camp. Shatkin proves himself well worthy of his role, and his seeming youthfulness provides the film with one of its most shocking moments.
Ticky Tacky is the first of Petsos’ short films that I have seen, (IMDB lists twelve writer credits for him and five directorial ones) but I look forward not only to checking out more of his already completed work but also seeing what he will bring to the screen going forward, For now, however, I highly recommend checking this one out. The 15 minutes it will take to watch it will definitely be well spent.
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