Directed by actor Gem Deger and written by Morris Stuttard, based on a story by Deger, when a teenager finds himself caught in a glitchy-glitzy reality with his onscreen male idol, he does all he can to be possessed by this man and ignore the violent clues of how he got there. Also starring: Austin Chunn, Issy Stewart, Christopher Hugh James Adamson, Holden McNeil and Jeff Fritz.
The initial idea of Playdurizm makes a lot of sense for the world that we live in, people getting so lost in their online presence, it infects their reality, the filmmakers capitalise on that then take it several steps further. It mixes passion and fandom with adult entertainment, violence and a material girl style world. It’s an odd mix and while it does give itself time to introduce its characters, things get messy and chaotic pretty fast. There are a number of different elements at play, from a surrealism to fractured timelines, fiction mixing with reality, all of which is framed with an almost childlike enthusiasm. It’s an aspect that feeds into the vulnerability of its lead character, but does have a strange tone. Eventually the story dives deeper and darker into harsh territory and it doesn’t feel entirely up to the challenge. It takes on difficult themes and doesn’t handle them with the depth needed, ending up feeling fairly cheap.
Stylistically it does have a strong creative vein running through it, it’s loud, colourful, confident and in your face. Opening on a sex scene is a bold choice, they’re tricky to pull off but Gem Deger does it surprisingly well, and it’s a curious opening note. However, the way that it frames its story makes it somewhat unclear whose story it’s truly trying to tell, the focus tends to shift back and forth. The atmosphere feels like a mix of obsession and escaping reality, helping the story bring out the themes of pushing away a harsh existence to meld into what makes you happy. Unfortunately, the more imaginative that it gets, the less things start to feel like they make sense, getting lost in the chaos and it can push things a little too far in its final scenes.
There’s a small cast at work here, throughout its time the film barely strays from its leading men, Gem Deger and Austin Chunn. Chunn’s performance is a surprising one, starting out as a stereotypical, classically handsome adult film styled character then gradually revealing he has more layers. He manages to hold the character within the fictional or idealised boundaries while also adding an empathy and kindness. It’s an unusual combination and interesting to watch unfold. While Gem Deger’s Demir has less hidden up his sleeve. There are certain offbeat qualities to his character which don’t make him immediately likable, and he forms a sidekick-esque persona. He doesn’t really feel like he has the presence to lead this story, he’s letting it drive forward while he’s in the passenger seat, even though he has the most at stake.
Playdurizm is highly stylised, creative and imaginative but ultimately takes on more than it can handle. It strays into darker and heavier territory than it has the depth to pull off, leaving things in a murky place. Austin Chunn gives a strong and intriguing performance but it doesn’t feel like he has the room to truly embrace it. The story starts to lose its grip as time goes on, it was already fairly out there to begin with so when it strays even further, it gets messy fast. It’s an interesting and relevant concept but it bites off more than it can chew.