Written, directed and edited by James Westby
Starring Melik Malkasian, with Tyler Gannon, Matt Morris, Michelle Garner, John Breen
Unrated; 78 minutes (contains male nudity and kinky offscreen sex)
Like its title character, Film Geek desperately wants to be liked. Unfortunately, also like the character, the film has virtually no idea how to make that happen.
Film Geek is about Scotty Pelk (Melik Malkasian), a barely post-adolescent loser whose life is so suffused with his love of film that he has developed no visible social skills and few other areas of his intellect. He lives alone in a tiny apartment, every flat surface piled high with videocassettes, subsisting on a diet consisting almost entirely of cold cereal. Film Geek concerns Scotty’s travails when he is fired from what would seem to be his ideal (probably only possible) job, video store clerk. (He is too annoying and opinionated for the customers and too solipsistically film-besotted to actually interact with the other employees.)
Cast out into the cold, cruel world, Scotty is befriended — well, maybe that’s too strong a word — attaches himself to Niko (Tyler Gannon), a pretty hipster-artist who can’t believe Scotty is as dweebish, dorky and unworldly as he seems. But he is. Film Geek has many shortcomings, but it is at least a needed corrective to all those mainstream “transformation” movies, where all the nerd needs is a little understanding, along with a “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”-style makeover, to be revealed as the fabulous human being he/she truly is underneath. In Film Geek, Scotty remains resolutely unfabulous and spectacularly clueless, even as he is used, abused, dumped on and then just dumped.
At his lowest ebb, Scotty’s life takes a dramatic turn, when his website is discovered by a local journalist and, finally, finally, his encyclopedic knowledge of films and his opinionated take on them wins him fame, fortune and the affections of Niko. In this final 15 minutes, Film Geek turns from being a realistic if depressing tale of an outcast into a fairy tale, where this cinematic Cinderella is recognized and rewarded for his Rain Man-like gifts. (If you can put up with the film’s overall slow pace and dull visuals, don’t miss the film’s final shot, which puts this sequence into a new perspective.)
The sad truth is that Scotty is annoying, not charming—even when those in the film start to appreciate him rather than ignore him. His comments on films and filmmakers rarely move far beyond the fact that a particular director is “awesome.” When he has to interact with anyone on a topic not related to films, he is, to put it plainly, stupid. And his narcissism keeps him from trying to get smarter about anything beyond his world in a frame.
Perhaps I’m being too harsh to a film that hits a little close to home. I too have a film-related website with a small audience, and have been accused — unfortunately accurately — of leading all conversational paths back to movies and/or TV shows. Le geek, c’est moi.
Film Geek is a depressingly accurate portrait of an obsessive. But writer/director James Westby, an ex-video store clerk himself (the press materials indicate Film Geek is at least partly autobiographical), hasn’t found a way to hook the audience into Scotty’s obsession. By making the central character so repellent, he makes it too easy for us to judge Scotty or to simply pity him, rather than empathizing with him.
I couldn’t help feeling sorry for Scotty — his situation is pathetic, and whoever his family is (he seems to have no human connections at all, as if he was simply found one day in the overnight video rental return bin), they have given him no tools with which to make his way in the real world. In real life, he might even be interesting to spend a little time. But focusing on him even for this short (78 minutes) film feels like more time than I want to spend in his presence.