God in the Headlights
I can’t imagine Bartlett being satisfied with a $4 million or $12 million version of this film. The style and subject matter are ideally matched to its budget… and this is a film that Bartlett’s idols would, I think, admire—for its trueness to life, its passion, its resolute artiness, its humanity, and its understanding of emotion and the artistic impulse. This is a ultimately a cosmic love story—not only about “the lost and lonely, and their late-night ways,” as Nick Lowe put it, but about how love works its way out in a divine and mysterious fashion. It’s easy to think that God has it out for us, and that Free Will is a sham, when there really is a grand design behind it all.
Don’t Get Your Hopes Up
As much as the project wants to be hip and edgy, I just found it annoying—mostly due to the visual style, which melds a low-def video source with rough-hewn quasi-animation to produce compact video that imitates, after a fashion, comic-book art. I found myself making choices that would just conclude things quickly—and succeeded wonderfully, my own ending coming after a scant 35 minutes. Whew! I was really fearing I’d end up in the four-hour version. Those who are searching out something new for newness sake might be interested in this release; but claims that the film will change the way we think of interactive video are overstated.
Visionary, If Rough
In his feature-length experimental look at the suburban evangelical teen subculture, “fascinated” agnostic director Aron Campisano pulls no punches, but throws no suckers, either. Still, though I found Campisano’s narrative tightrope-walking act engaging and fair, the real strength of this film is the director’s visual style. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a shoe-string budget film that was as visually arresting as The Master Plan. That being said, Campisano’s film is also not really ready for prime time—but this is a great film for other filmmakers to study, and it’s a decent conversation-starter for those interested in talking about the ways in which teens come to—and steer away from—faith.