Concessions Confession: 1BR has all the ideas to be a thought provoking and gripping thriller; only to drop the ball and be an empty and predictable bore.
Log Line: Sarah becomes the newest member of an LA community that is more than meets the eye.
Netflix continues its reputation of being the patron-saint of 1st drafts, displaying another wild and fascinating concept that eventually shrivels under a lack of fine tuning. Admittedly it is somewhat impressive from a directing and cinematography standpoint. I wouldn’t say the production is lacking, except for maybe the set designs. The film is almost barren of details, there’s nothing that really elevate the piece visually from what’s appearing in the background. I mean there’s a really in your face movie poster that they directly bring attention to. The main point is subtlety is not this film’s strong suit.
The Appeal of The Thrill
This film is typically what the critics enjoy, something unconventional that stands out from the pack. A film that provides plenty food for thought and leaves enough interpretation up to the imagination. This is were the divide between Rotten Tomato reviews (87%) and IMDb reviews (5.8/10) derive from.
1BR is a thematically rich film; I can certainly see someone’s video essay on this applauding it as stimulating and compelling. 1BR raises questions on: Individualism v collectivism, LA culture, indoctrination, and manipulation (especially cultic), women’s autonomy, the establishment and upkeep of institutions, actions dictated by social peer-pressure. What are all fascinating springboards for an engaging flick all surmount to the depth of “Huh, we really do live in a society don’t we?”.
David Marmor may be making his feature length directorial debut but synopsizes of his previous shorts show’s that he’s no stranger to gripping with surreal concept pieces.
“When he tries to win back his ex-girlfriend, a struggling scientist accidentally creates an unstoppable black hole in his parents’ garage. Now he must race to save the world–or at least get his ex to call him back”– Love & Other Unstable States of Matter 8.2/10 on IMDb
“After a near-fatal accident, a scientist’s growing obsession with the physics of mortality threatens to unravel the fabric of his life”– Spin 8.2/10 on IMDb
“A group of friends sit down to watch the latest episode of their favorite television show. Alas, one of them becomes possessed by a VHS player and goes on a rampage”-The Texture of Love
This film ends up with a similar aftertaste as Joker (2019). I think there’s a distinction between acknowledging an idea and exploring it and in this case, I don’t see enough evidence of the latter. The fact of the matter is if you want to engage with these themes or concepts, you’ll more so pull from external sources then dissecting them from the film itself.
How Sharp is Occam’s Razor?
According to this film, very sharp. Occam’s Razor is a philosophical or scientific rule that theories should favor the most plausible outcomes than complex scenarios. Pretty much the most likely solution is the simplest.
While the world of 1BR is certainly extraordinary, its storytelling isn’t. Almost ever plot point is so easily telegraphed. I kept waiting for them to finally play their hand and subvert expectations…and maybe it tried doing that, I’m not really sure. Things that maybe were supposed to be a twist or a reveal are painfully “yeah, duh” kind of moments.
Once you realize this film has the most basic set up and pays off in the most generic fashion that it becomes so underwhelming. The biggest mystery is what is this mysterious noise is. I thought the simple answer of what it could be, I kept hoping it would be a great reveal but…nope. When you only know one or 2 defining traits from each character, surprise they act in the exact fashion you expect that character archetype to function in the specific scenario.
I’m going to enter a spoiler discussion for anyone interested except I will spoil one thing. Only because I’ve seen many expressed distastes in this aspect. Cat ends up in oven, and you get a nice view of it. If animal cruelty upsets you then completely understandable that you’d probably skip this one. Honestly, cruelty in general. Netflix did tag this as “violent” and let’s just say it delivers on that front.
So it spoils….
Am I the only one who thinks the song sounds like they couldn’t acquire the rights to Fly Me to the Moon.
I do credit the film for recognizing the evil neighborhood wasn’t going to be that shocking of a development. While the film skates over that predictable circumstances it quickly transitions into the make or break aspect of the film. The long drawn out torture scene is both gripping as well as just tough to sit through. It’s compelling but it never feels worth it beyond the discomfort.
Does this show the techniques and damaging affects others can have on a person’s psyche to indoctrinate them to a school of thought? No, they just kind of force her to stand uncomfortably for long periods of time and then nail her hands to the wall. I felt like this segment maybe should have been longer and varied.
The best element this film has to offer is teasing the unknown. Who’s doing this, what is life like outside of the contained room or complex? However besides showing this a bit too early spending a lot of time with Sarah adjusting to the community; when the film shows it’s cards it’s not working with a good hand.
To complete the Poker metaphor this movie is a pair of sixes and I mean with cinema closing/re-opening maybe nobody at the table has anything better. The only problem is that this movie can’t bluff to save it’s life. Maybe it’s a decent enough hand but it isn’t really tricking anyone into thinking its got something better than it does.
I think people saying “you’re not going to shoot me” before getting shot is of my least favorite clichés/trends. It’s part of this weird thing we’re doing where we make the 1st half intense and scary and then turn the climax into a joke. It’s weird that so many horror/thriller movies just would rather be 21 Jump Street during the end of their movie instead of following the mood and tone they’re build up to.
Then in the ending we discover that you can’t escape society…it’s everywhere? Almost as shocking of a revelation as water being wet. That’s the issue with 1BR, it’s a blanket “society bad” statement that teases more but ends up giving even less.
If anything the one scene that I enjoyed was a scene were Sarah has to drive away her terrible father so he doesn’t get glocked by the cult. This scene was very original and actually presented a conundrum on forgiveness and unearthing complex feelings. Sarah definitely holds some animosity towards her father but deep down cherishes his effort to make amends, and cares enough not to let him die. It’s an interesting scene to ponder how society plays a role in deciding what’s right. Maybe Sarah would be able to take solace in making amends. However, the collective believes that crime shouldn’t go punished and she is better off without him. This scene demonstrates the sort of originality and provoking nature I wish more of the film displayed. Sadly this film is all shock and no thrill.