“It’s right in front of you. Just go for it.”
The above quote from World Spins Madly On could be the same words writer/director Jeremy Jed Hammel told himself when debating his next film project. In pops the idea of an unlikely romance sparking from thin air due to inexplicably forceful signs and onto the screen arrives Kermit (Doug Orey) and Lauren (Lauren Eicher) sharing a random moment courtesy of some higher power. Sometimes you simply have to go for it and see what happens. If it works: great. If it doesn’t: you won’t harbor any regret from not trying. Hammel’s short becomes the living embodiment of this sentiment, progressing its premise in accordance to the oddly fantastical world he’s created despite following along an imperfect pathway towards that goal.
The film feels as though it isn’t sure what tone to embrace. Its first third is extremely playful to the point where you can imagine the laughter off-screen as branches are thrown towards Orey’s unfazed mug caught in contemplation. Its middle looks to add periphery humor so as to deflect from an eventual instance of pithy philosophy, pushing aside absurdity for subtlety. And its last third replaces comedy with potential romance born from an out-of-nowhere transformation on behalf of Eicher’s Lauren. World Spins Madly On is so rigid in its segmentation that the quick transitions left me off-balance. As each jump came I found myself expending too much energy readjusting my expectations that I had little left for the characters themselves.
I don’t mind Hammel’s decision to infuse some fairy tale magic in the form of Kermit’s letter from the sky igniting his capacity to take a risk or Lauren’s impossible telephone exchange making it seem like she’s hearing voices/being incepted with exterior thoughts. In fact, I was excited where he would go after the former’s surreal hilarity. If that type of comedy remained for the duration, the nonsensical things occurring later wouldn’t feel so glaringly off. Go all out and have Nick (Dennis Hurley) and Dromio (Quentin James) push past Kermit when he turns back away from a green-lit crosswalk. Maybe even knock him down as he scrambles to talk to Lauren—make these men into those disembodied branches from the start.
You could even go the complete opposite direction to match more with the sentimentality of the finale by steeping everything in a stronger sense of reality. Move the venue from street corner to subway turn-style so Nick, Dromio, and two nameless women remaining behind Kermit as he works up the courage to find Lauren makes narrative sense rather than act as a shoehorned gag. If this route is taken, however, a little more cause for Lauren to suddenly give this creepy guy who does nothing to un-creepify himself the time of day is necessary. Make his phone conversation exactly like hers to match their identical ringtones so both hang-up and smile at their shared kismet.
I think there’s a good film waiting to emerge with a bit more time and polish. The music video flourishes with edits cut to the beats of a great soundtrack show visual promise and the repetition rewind at its center is inspired if not necessary to the story in its current state of brevity. There’s just something about the conceit that feels unfinished. While it makes sense for Lauren to become interested in Kermit as easily as he did, her moment of destiny-laden fortune cookie knowledge comes after already making a first impression. Kermit’s cue motivated him to approach her without preconceptions. Utilizing those words as literal Cupid’s arrows intoxicating them with love would make everything okay, but I don’t think there’s enough here yet to accept that reasoning.