Review: Life on Pause

Written and directed by Steve Lifshey, a 1980’s-era wedding videographer, still smitten with his college crush, attempts to win her love with his “totally awesome” camera skills. Starring: Daniel Desmarais, Jackie McCarthy, Bj Gruber, Vince Chang, William Scott Brown and Eva Visco.

The strongest element is undoubtedly how decidedly this film emanates the 1980s. It hits that home video, VHS nostalgia button straight away and then builds the classic cheesy and overconfident atmosphere that goes hand in hand with the era. The music especially works to double down on how succinctly it commits to the time period. The entire direction and style are all very satisfyingly on the same page. Although there is one exception of using a first person perspective which feels quite a jarring transition and puts a kink in the otherwise smooth flow.

It’s an added bonus that they chose to include outtakes of alternative lines, but it highlights the strange fact that the humour is stronger in those takes than most of the film. It’s almost certainly due to the performance by comedian Vince Chang, seeing what he had to offer in the outtakes, it’s a shame he didn’t have a leading role. A role which went to Daniel Desmarais who, while giving a very 80s appropriate performance, is fairly unconvincing. However, it does feel as though this is in large part due to the writing, his character is of a type that has become outdated. The combination of an obsession with a woman for years mixed with a unjustified sense of entitlement to her affection and a tendency to call himself ‘video man’ as if it were a superhero alias, is not ideal for building a relatable, funny or sympathetic character. It could work if it had more of an ironic, sarcastic or sartorial tone but that doesn’t come across.

The writing as a whole does have a few more issues, it feels fairly predictable and though there are a couple of unexpected additions, for the most part it leans too heavily on the 80s cheesy tone. It’s throwing back to the era without bringing enough from today’s world to make it feel unique. It does still move at a decent pace and is entertaining to watch but is missing an element to make it more memorable. The sense of humour takes one brief crude turn but it doesn’t hold onto that tone, it would have been good to see it go for something with an edge, to blend that clear style with a blunt or raw comedy.

Life on Pause is a good concept with a strong 80s style but the execution is flawed. The direction, costumes, sets and music are all mostly on the same page to tick the boxes aesthetically but the writing hits too familiar of a note. It feels as though it got too attached to rebuilding that atmosphere when there’s a lot of elements of film from that time that don’t necessarily work well today. It also needed a lead character with more charisma or relatability to help pull it off but sadly he comes across fairly cliched. It shows a clear potential but there was more work to be done.

Verdict: ✯✯✯ l 6/10

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