Directed by: #MelissaSkirboll
Written by: #PennyBJackson, Melissa Skirboll
A dark comedy riffing on the classic Through The Looking Glass motif, filmmaker Melissa Skirboll's short film My Dinner With Schwartzey (co-written with Penny B. Jackson) is an exploration of youth, innocence, and excess.
Zoe Wilson plays Fiona, a talented singer who has fallen under the wing of an influential music producer known as Schwartzey (James Pravasilis). He introduces Fiona to his luxurious world of partying, drugs, and alcohol, meeting a gaggle of flamboyant characters along the way. As she delves deeper into this chaotic world, the true nature of Schwartzey becomes clearer and Fiona's purity hangs in the balance.
Excitingly constructed and full of spectacle, My Dinner With Schwartzey reminded me of parts of Moulin Rouge, where the excesses of the characters became a cinematic whirlwind. Skirboll maintains a demanding pace, keeping the audience as unbalanced as the central character.
Zoe Wilson is terrific in the lead role, navigating the disarray of each scene with a compelling naivety. A particular impressive moment sees her on stage singing an arresting song with great vocals. It was a shame we didn't get more time with Fiona to fully invest in her journey and peril.
The starry-eyed innocent being lured and potentially ruined by showbiz is not a new theme but it does feel contemporary. Characters at the risk of losing their morality and risking their safety for fear of missing out on the party is definitely going to be relatable to a modern audience, and Schwartzey's power and manipulation over women in particular is hauntingly current.
Along with the startling pace of the short film, the #filmmaking is finely tuned to elicit an almost nauseating response from the audience, which is done purposefully. A plethora of shots of drugs and alcoholic beverages are used to dizzy the viewer, whilst the edgy rock music feels uninhibiting. Colour and an elaborate mise en scène are also utilised to provide the dreamlike aesthetic required to complement Fiona's voyage into the wild.
For a film dealing with potentially nightmarish topics, there is still a lot of fun to be had watching My Dinner With Schwartzey. Skirboll knows how to control the flow whilst delivering a film that is consistent with its mission. It's a journey through the cocktail glass that we hope to make it back from with our innocence intact.