J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Slamdance ’15: Female Pervert

Some things sound sexier in theory than they frequently turn out to be in practice, like Murakami book clubs and dirty talk. Phoebe will learn both these things first hand. She would really like to make a connection, but she is her own worst enemy in Jiyoung Lee’s Female Pervert, which screens during the 2015 Slamdance Film Festival.

Phoebe works for a boutique PR agency and develops video games on the side. She is cute and hip, so you would think she would have no trouble attracting guys, until she starts talking. Frankly, the term pervert might be a bit harsh. It is like she has a form of sexual Tourette’s that compels her to make creepy, mood-killing comments.

Clocking in just over an hour, FP is relatively brief and a tad repetitive, as Phoebe falls into a predictable pattern of initially attracting guys with her idiosyncrasies and then repelling them with her inappropriate weirdness. However, there is a lot of sly satire directed at Nabokov reading pseudo-intellectual hipsters, the shallow feel-good liberal activism of millennials, conspiracy theorists with a religious like faith in cheaply produced documentaries, and organic food eating environmental paranoids. None of them can withstand Phoebe’s caustic attitude.

That necessarily means Jennifer Kim is the key to whether it all works and to what extent. Fortunately, she is absolutely terrific as the exquisitely problematic Phoebe. Her comic timing is pitch perfect and she radiates an eccentric charisma that truly lights up the screen. You cannot help falling for her, despite all the whacked out things she says and does. She somehow conveys a real heart underneath all the acting out, which comes through clearly in Lee’s sweetly subtle closing sequence.

Even knowing full well how much trouble she is, you’d be tempted to try to make something work with Phoebe, which is sort of the acid test for a character like this. While a lot of critics have bought into Desiree Akhavan’s Appropriate Behavior, because it tries to milk some rather gross sexual situations for laughs, it utterly lacks the warmth and vulnerability of the imperfectly titled Female Pervert. Recommended for fans of edgy but still kind of sweet relationship comedies, Female Pervert screens again tomorrow (1/28) at Treasure Mountain Inn, as part of this year’s Slamdance.