“Little Death” won the NEXT innovator award at Sundance, 2024. I was attracted to this film by the fact that Protozoa Pictures was involved (Darren Aranofsky) and that it had David Schwimmer, Gaby Hoffman, Jenna Malone and Seth Green among the cast members. The director was Jack Begert, who co-wrote it with Dani Goffstein. Another executive producer was Andy Cohen.
The synopsis described the film this way: “A middle-aged filmmaker on the verge of a breakthrough. Two kids in search of a lost backpack. A small dog a long way from home.”
That description of the film’s plot didn’t pin down the story much, and the actual unfolding of the plot was only minimally helpful. There is a young girl who has had her car hijacked and must seek help. There is David Schwimmer (the frustrated filmmaker) who is trying hard to get a green light for his film project. It’s not a particularly tight, well-written, or thoughtful script.
In a conference, the Powers-That-Be at the studio tell screenwriter Martin (David Schwimmer) that he should consider changing the gender of his lead character, [who, it should be noted, is largely autobiographical.] Martin is understandably reluctant to change the sex of his lead character from male to female, but, in a meeting with the studio Big Whigs, he becomes convinced that it will be easy to simply change “Dan” to “Danielle. It’s a deal-breaker. So, he complies.
This means that, halfway through the film, the audience loses David Schwimmer as the lead actor because he is replaced by Gaby Hoffman, who started her film career in 1989’s “Field of Dreams” as the young Karen Kinsella. There is no explanation of this sudden loss, other than Gaby’s appearance.
I found it interesting to see the male character morph into a female lead without so much as a word of explanation, and I was not put off by the visual effects that bothered one other critic, who said this: “The performances were messy and their characters are really unlikeable and aggravating in the worst way. Each character comes close to wanting to pull your hair out of your head levels.
Begert approach on the humor is poor, the editing and musical choices are annoying, and the dialogue is forced, unfunny, and poorly constructed. There are some really awful visual presentations and animations throughout. To top it off, the animations were AI-generated which honestly is a major slap on the face for independent filmmakers and artists. It’s insulting that Sundance allowed this movie to come into the festival.”
Well. That certainly is one point of view.
I do agree that the film seems, overall, poorly organized. The plot is random and doesn’t tie together well. The “visual effects” that this anonymous critic mentions (no name is attached on the IMDB.com page) were primitive when one considers that Protozoa was behind the film.
Cinematography was by Christopher Ripley.
Overall, I was sad to see Schwimmer go, as the lead, to be replaced by Gaby Hoffman. It wasn’t my favorite film of the eight I am reviewing, and it had problems, but I’m more accepting of it than Mr. Anonymous Reviewer.