REVIEW: Allison [2012]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 7 minutes | Release Date: July 6th, 2012 (USA)
Studio: WIGSCO
Director(s): Paul Brickman
Writer(s): Paul Brickman

“I’m already doing 90%. Not going to do 95.”

After what appeared like full-blown retirement from the industry, writer/director Paul Brickman of Risky Business fame has been lured back by the WIGS network of female-centric short films. Building his tale around the stereotypical nagging wife trope, Allison subverts the usual comic portrayal of an over-zealous matriarch by putting her in a situation that earns the attitude. Containing a healthy portion of sarcastic humor, we empathize with this breadwinning, headstrong woman and completely understand her struggle. If husband Jerry (Joel Johnstone) can’t even bother to rinse a coffee carafe while she’s at work, what’s the point?

Shot with a keen eye for detail, the entire short focuses on Marin Ireland‘s titular role readying for the day’s 9 to 5. Trying to get Jerry to acknowledge the little things piled too high for her to continue forgiving, the forceful words spewing forth end up mostly for her own benefit. Only occasionally does a barely audible response in the form of grunted words emit from his half-asleep lug, the daily routine of berating ingraining the vision of Allison glaring with hands on hips to the point he no longer has to look. And as she applies make-up, eats breakfast, and dresses for work, the list of things he’s held accountable for continues to grow.

Listening to Ireland quip about Quebecer ants eating Jerry’s honey spoon and Starbucks serving ‘liquid gold’ to get him to return 45 times in one month is funny, but watching her brilliant expressions makes it hilarious. So fed up with the idea doing everything for an out-of-work husband ‘researching’ at home, all form of saccharine filter on her behalf is gone. He yells that she’s dictating to him, but in the context of this film I don’t see why she shouldn’t. Lazy, ambivalent, and obviously unappreciative, he sleeps all day and wallows in self-pity rather than help around the house. It’s the sort of dynamic that exists everywhere—also with genders reversed—and a humorous situation all can relate with.

While the dialogue is witty, the joke does wear thin before the paltry seven minute runtime is over. Hearing the “90%” diatribe once is enough as the attitude exemplifying the remark is better suited without the repetition since her actions speak much louder than words. Despite this, though, a constant barrage of intriguing camera-angles, slow single-shot pans, and meticulously static framing never lets us grow bored. The rather sterile compositions mimic our lead’s matter-of-fact monologue just as her fascinating work uniform adds a splash of silver, yellow, and the question of whether this domestic dispute is occurring inside a post-apocalyptic warzone.

Such a realization only helps keep the onus squarely on Jerry. Here she is suiting up for God knows what and the best he can manage is a trip out for coffee after not even cleaning the pot his wife made before she left. And when the simple, genuine gesture of cutting through the thick layer of frustration sees her asking about a date night to relieve their respective stress levels, her declaration of “I love you” isn’t even reciprocated. By the end you must wonder why Allison hasn’t thrown the bum out yet.

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