Talhotblond: Everybody Lies Online
Of sordid but compelling subject matter, the documentary talhotblond has the look and feel of an overtly moralistic episode of Dateline, but it has actually been making the rounds on the festival circuit for the past few months, and scooping the odd prize at regional showcases the likes of The Seattle Film Festival. The much loved film does try and re-teach us that age old lesson that the internet is no place to talk to strangers because anybody you talk to could be a "world class liar" out to take advantage of you. OK, we get it already, now tell us something new. Surprisingly director Barbara Schroeder duly obliges as she starts off by serving up a tale of an online love triangle that ends in murder. But...she's also got this trump card hidden away that she hold very close to her chest until exactly the right moment and when she does finally play it, the revelation will leave you in a state of stunned silence.
Having the story narrated by the voice of the victim of the murder Brian Barrett (his imminent death is stated from the outset, American Beauty style, so we are giving nothing away) is a gimmicky little attention getter that Schroeder is unable to maintain throughout. Too many times she needs her narrator to act as guide and laboriously lay out dry, necessary exposition. Brian and a co-worker named Thomas both happen to fall in love with the same tall, hot blond in an online game room and she, an attention junky named Jessie, is more than happy to play them off of one another for her own aggrandizement. Thomas, not wanting to admit that he's actually a washed up middle aged father instead pretends to be an 18-year-old marine sniper who is about to ship off to Iraq. Schroeder tells a lot of the story via the presentation of raw chat room text on screen while employing some of the most manipulative music imaginable in the background. It's sleazy, trashy, Jerry Springer level entertainment that somehow manages to levitate itself to a place of relative seriousness.
The film knows that we all love a bit of voyeurism and plays into it perfectly. After watching it you'll need a good scrub down but, that is a small price to pay because it's tough to recall a more skin-crawling story. As the narrative uncoils we move through a few predictable twists and turns and eventually land at the murder which ordinarily would serve as the natural climax. But, as it turns out, the murder is just a set up for something even more depraved. As things winds down Schroeder makes a minor misstep in allowing the families of the victim to whine and cry about how we don't live in a fascist society and can't just throw anybody we don't like in jail, but more than anything she proves with talhotblond that she can flat out direct and tell a captivating story.
Since the story does revel in a tabloid ready story that treads around the dark underbelly of suburbia it would be easy for us to turn our noses up at it and pretend to be superior, but its very hard not to be engaged and interested. It doesn't just plop another Internet bogeyman story in front of us but instead dives into the murky waters that is the World Wide Web and contemplates how a utopian world which presents us with an opportunity to live our fantasy life often times leads us to commit ugly crimes that would have never been possible without it. Obviously the technological revolution which has brought us an instant connection to the entire planet has showered us with untold networking treasures. But it has also simultaneously given rise to stories like these. And just in case the version shown on TV wasn't quite filthy enough for you there is always the option of buying the R rated version. . .where else. . .on the Internet.
Paramount Digital Entertainment has acquired the worldwide distribution rights to talhotblond. The film is available through download-to-own digital distributors the likes of iTunes and Amazon. Vitis www.talhotblond.com
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