I’m not giving anything away to tell you the punch line in Gillian Wallace Horvat’s I BLAME SOCIETY. It’s a perfectly timed, and even more perfectly delivered explanation about the film her character made in the course of this vicious, and viciously funny satire: I’m sorry it didn’t meet your expectations, I didn’t make it for you, I made it for me. She also made it for every other woman with dreams and ambitions that has been undermined by both the economy and the patriarchy. It’s also quite the shot at artistic narcissism. By the end, one wonders why there isn’t more violent crime associated with the film business.
Horvat plays a struggling filmmaker named Gillian, an aspiring film director with a master’s degree who find herself eking out a living going from dead-end project to dead-end project. When she receives a compliment from people who are not given to giving them out, she is intrigued and inspired. The compliment was that she would make a very good murderer, but when she pitches a film in which she plans the perfect murder of the worst person she knows to her friend Chase (co-writer Chase Williamson), he balks. Maybe it’s because that worst person is his girlfriend (Alexia Rasmussen), code name Stalin.
Naturally, it puts a strain on the friendship. So does being dropped by her manager, and being set up for a directing job that turns out to be something far less than expected. The disappointment takes its toll on her relationship with live-in boyfriend, Keith (Keith Poulson), who is experiencing his own career frustrations. Resilient, or maybe pushed to the edge, Gillian revives her murder project, and is disappointed when Keith is less than enthusiastic about her constant plotting of the perfect murder. It’s not, she protests, like she’s planning on becoming a spree killer.
To be fair, that wasn’t the plan, but after an unexpected first kill, Gillian decides to go all in knocking off people that should be alive, at least as far as Gillian is concerned. There is a skewed ethics in play as she scurries around, minicam on her head, sneaking poison here, picking up the aftermath of a bad first date there, all while offering a running commentary on the necessity of being a likable strong female lead, and how to build up to larger crimes by starting with small transgressions. By pursuing her dream project, she discovers an empowering talent for murder, and for documenting the planning and, ahem, execution of same. Plus, she has a genuine flair for writing suicide notes. They’re convincing to the victims’ friends and family even when the victims have been stabbed in the back.
In the course of the film, Horvat goes from a sad-sack with a conventional approach to the personal documentary to a blond willing to take her shirt off before offing someone, gamely doing her own focus pulling, and confiding to the camera that she is living her best life while sipping wine during a break-in. The make-over from shaggy brunette to soigné blonde, a stiletto sharp commentary on the male gaze infesting filmdom, becomes a divinely twisted liberation statement, as does her new, emboldened sexuality. She has a genius for delivering the mordant humor with a perfect, further ahem, deadpan, while she makes the audience squirm with her choice of victim, a few of which come very close to making sense in a poetic justice vein. When it comes to a pair of oblivious producers (Lucas Kavner and Morgan Krantz) convinced that they are pro-woman, she makes them more than mere paper tigers as the torture her with their condescension. More than the enemy, they are the Greek chorus of self-congratulatory obtuseness with whom Gillian contends in hopes of getting that one big break. Their scenes are infuriating while also being archly wry.
I BLAME SOCIETY is at once as adorable as its strong female lead, and as ruthless. This is savage rebellion served up with a knowing wink and no apologies. Brace yourself and prepare to storm a rampart.