Tabloid Vivant will be screened at Chicago’s Doc Theater on July 9th
Starring: Jesse Woodrow (TV’s Charmed), Tamzin Brown (The Adderall Diaries), and Chris Carlisle (Dog tags)
Written/Directed by: Kyle Broom (Prevention of Injury, Scale from One to Seven)
Tabloid Vivant is just as pretentious as its title. I had the exact opposite reaction with this movie than I did with my last review of Careful What You Wish For. I expected to love Tabloid Vivant but actually didn’t end up even liking it. Most of what Tabloid Vivant presents to its audience is utter nonsense trying way too hard to be meaningful. It is awfully easy to plunge head first into pretension when creating entertainment that is meant to examine the abstraction that is art, but I had high hopes that this movie wouldn’t fall into that trap. My hopes were dashed five minutes into this film that could have been so much better.
The central premise of Tabloid Vivant is decent. The film asks “what if art could come to life?” This is an interesting, albeit banal question, but the problem lies in the lackluster plot that attempts to answer said question. On the way to becoming a Lynchian Frankenstein tale about obsession and fame, Tabloid Vivant stumbles — a lot. The one saving grace is the acting. I found Jesse Woodrow to be quite good as the struggling artist Klinkau, and his art critic girlfriend Sara Speed, played by Tamzin Brown, was just fine. Both of their motives were believable and their mania convincing, but I couldn’t help but feel that Brown’s English accent sounded fake (until Wikipedia search revealed she is in fact British and I was wrong). These two are essentially the only characters who exist in the world of Tabloid Vivant; there are a few other small roles such as Klinkau’s friend/manager and Sara’s editor, but they don’t matter much at all. There’s not much in the way of settings either as there’s really only one. This is all fine… until the movie starts feeling a bit claustrophobic and ultimately tiresome after listening to these two discuss art in a small cabin in the woods for an hour and a half.
Now it may seem like I have discussed the characters and singular setting while leaving out the all important plot, but I actually didn’t. What I’ve already briefly mentioned about the plot is pretty much all there is — minus a few unimportant details. Klinkau thinks he has discovered a genius paint-by-numbers style of painting that can bring works of art to life and his girlfriend wants to write an article about it. That’s it. That is the entire story of Tabloid Vivant aside from a seemingly unrelated opening featuring a black and white sequence that alludes to the Black Dahlia murder. This opening actually happens to be the most interesting five minutes of the movie. The Black Dahlia reference, which comes back again later, is interesting but really doesn’t serve much purpose. After that initial scene, there is some needless exposition showing how the two characters met, they go off to seclude themselves in the woods, then something happens (which I won’t spoil), and finally an obligatory loose end tying moment closes out the film. Other than the opening and closing scenes that actually have forward momentum, Tabloid Vivant is just two hours of ostentatious art discussion.
I’m not sure what the point of Tabloid Vivant is. Is it to inspire? To scare? Maybe this film is simply an exercise in emulating David Lynch. Or perhaps it’s purpose is to provide a means for writer/director Kyle Broom to display his knowledge of art history and theory? It is not clear. I will say this about hyphenate Kyle Broom, though: you definitely get a sense that Tabloid Vivant is a singular man’s vision. There are some quick, fleeting flashes of brilliance on display, and I do think Broom will have success in the future. I would watch another film by Broom as I feel that he has a great movie in him, but this is just not it.
Maybe I didn’t “get it.” I’m sure this is the exact kind of argument champions of this film, like so many “artistic” films before it, will use to make others feel stupid. Maybe Tabloid Vivant is just not for me. Maybe Tabloid Vivant is for art students. There is certainly artistic merit in some of the stylistic choices Broom makes (if it was not for the style I probably wouldn’t have made it to the end credits). I’m not an art student; though, I’m a writing instructor. If one of my students turned in a story like Tabloid Vivant I would tell them it has style, but no substance. I would tell them they have a good story to tell, eventually, but they need to work on basic story elements first. And I wouldn’t give them a bad grade because I don’t believe in grading creative writing. Unfortunately for Tabloid Vivant, though, I do believe in grading the professional films I review. Now I can’t really recommend this film, but I can recommend you keep an eye on Kyle Broom’s career because I’m sure that a great film from him is coming in the near future.
Joe Portes is a writer of Fiction and Essays, as well as a Creative Writing instructor in Upstate New York. He has edited literary journals and online magazines where his stories, interviews, and reviews have also appeared. His work has been in or is forthcoming in the Indianola Review, Pitkin Review, and Free George Magazine among others. Aside from writing for the Pop Culture Beast, he maintains a blog at JoePortes.com where you can read about everything from teaching college freshmen, to his love of podcasts, to playing video games.