Written & Directed by Andrew Lawton Starring Tali Custer, Daniel Stagliano, Susanne Layton, Andrew Lawton, Peter James, James C. Stewart, Kevin Gilmartin & Katie Sah Short Film Review by Chris Olson "The name's Tommo", "...and that's short for?" "Sebastian" Fewer funnier lines have been found in a short film this year, and none quite encapsulate the style of comedic tone found in Andrew Lawton's Down Under invasion movie Couch Surfer as fittingly. The movie is just over 20 minutes of tongue-in-cheek jokes, dispensed at everyone's expense, occasionally daring to jump headlong into racial stereotypes but mostly offering lighthearted jabs about drinking and dudes.
Julia (Tali Custer) becomes the unfortunate victim of her sister's (Susanne Layton) generosity when she is pressured into reluctantly offering her apartment as a place for Aussie backpacker Stevo (Andrew Lawton) to stay for a few days. The inconveniences start mild, with Stevo sleeping on the couch for long periods. However the trouble literally multiplies once fellow backpackers arrive, and Julia's apartment starts to look like a Walkabout two hours after closing time. There is a delightful cheekiness to Lawton's story that is as endearing as it is humorous. Whilst the characters are meant to be slightly annoying, especially from the perspective of Julia, whom the audience will clearly identify with the most, an almost lovable charm emanates from these blokes who spend their time living the free life of a traveller. Whilst they do drink copious amounts of beer and refuse to wear many clothes, they also have a chipper attitude towards the world which is utterly enviable. As is needed in a comedy short film, Couch Surfer is peppered with solid gold lines in the script which are expertly funny and perfectly delivered by the cast. Such as the zinger at the beginning of this film review, the best ones tend to be the seemingly most innocuous lines. During the film Julia's work colleague Todd (James C. Stewart), a New Zealander, has some epic banter with Julia at work, and when he turns up at the apartment has an altercation with the Aussie contingent - where hilarity ensues for those agreeable to banter about stereotyping (which frankly I am). The performances are of a high standard, especially Lawton, whose life-loving backpacker with a heavy tendency to leech off of others is completely believable and achieves the aforementioned balance between irritation and affability. Kudos must be given to Custer as the film's lead, expertly portraying the put-out host, whose character arc is the most interesting to behold by the film's culmination. Lawton experiments with a genre shift halfway through the film, with the introduction of a priest (Kevin Gilmartin) brought in by Julia in order to "exorcise" this foreign pest from her place of living. This blend of horror with comedy works brilliantly, and complements the farcical nature of the story. The camerawork could have been more daring, it remains pretty solid throughout but never really tries anything difficult, aside from a running scene with Julia. However, much like its characters, Couch Surfer is happy exactly the way it is. Fans of Lawton's in your face style (see Have You Seen Calvin?) will be in their element with this charming and wickedly funny short about the dangers of ever befriending backpackers!
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