There are some people out there who think that having a unique idea for a film is all you really need to make it work. I have to say though that theory is wrong. While a unique idea is a great start for a film, the thing that solely determines whether or not a film is going to work is its screenplay.
Take new Australian film How Do You Know Chris? for example. Great premise, but the film never really lives up to his potential because of a script that in my view simply introduces too many characters into the mix and sadly leaves its best for the last.
Directed by first time feature director Ashley Harris How Do You Know Chris? is set in the year 2000 and begins with the mysterious Chris (Luke Cook – Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2) meeting young university student Emi (Tatiana Quaresma – The Doctor Blake Mysteries) in a Laundromat. Despite having just met her he invites her to a party that he is holding – she is indecisive but decides to attend.
When she first arrives at the moment though Chris is nowhere to be seen. Instead the party is filled with guests that include his boss, ex-lovers, school friends and strangely enough his high school’s resident bully Blucker (Dan Haberfield – The Demon).
For the most part the audience watches on as the party goers try to work why Chris has invited them to the party, what the part is in aide of and of course as the night goes on we learn that some of the characters also have inter-relationships of their own – especially Blucker’s victims. As the drinks flow and people become drunker more and more ‘honesty’ is presented in its rawest form.
The best way I can describe How Do You Know Chris? is an over ambitious project that sounds great on paper but just doesn’t have the fire-power to make it work. In the right hands this could have become a powerful dialogue driven film in the realm of the hard to find Don’s Plum and the seriously under-rated Ice House, but sadly screenwriter Zachary Perez (Junk Mail) lacks the skill to be able to stretch the film out and keep the suspense going throughout the film.
While I did find the revelations interesting that came out about each character too often important plot points were skimmed over really quickly and rather than remaining suspenseful the film started to feel like it was plodding along. There was also way too many characters for the audience to keep track of and the sad reality is that the film’s best writing came way too late with an amazing finale. While I feel that the film did have some major faults holding it back I have to admit that it did have a crescendo that I will remember for a while to come.
I also found that many of the actors stepped up despite being let down by the screenplay at hand. It was great to see Travis McMahon capture the acting magic that he once brought to Good Guys, Bad Guys while the real find in this film is Dan Haberfied who steals the show as the angry bully that is now confined to a wheel-chair.
I don’t say this very often but How Do You Know Chris? is the kind of film that I would like to see be re-made. With a quick re-write from an experienced screenwriter I get the feeling that this could be a film that would hold the audience’s attention and then deliver a powerful punch to their guts, but as the film stands at the moment it just isn’t at that point.
While How Do You Know Chris? nicely fits into that festival film niche to me it was a film that could have been so much more.