Updated: Sep 29, 2020
Directed by: #FCRabbath
Written by: #FCRabbath
In a post-lockdown world, writer-director F.C. Rabbath’s soon-to-be released feature film The Waiting presents an intriguing view into a paranormal form of isolation: a ghost (played by Molly Ratermann) trapped inside the hotel-room setting of her past suicide. Seen primarily through the eyes of our audience surrogate and lead character Eric (Nick Leali)—a lonely, awkward and inexplicably embarrassment-prone front desk worker at the haunted hotel—what begins as a fascinating concept of supernatural romance and the equally terrifying world of hospitality management, soon dissolves into a series of rushed emotional beats, poorly executed slapstick, and overall painfully expositional dialogue.
The main issue with the script is that it doesn’t allow any room whatsoever for subtext from the actors; instead, everything that is thought is immediately stated by the characters in the scene. It’s this reversal of “show don’t tell” which plagues the majority of the feature film. The very first line delivered by Eric is “so [...] how’re you liking online dating?” while he sits across from someone who the audience has just been blatantly informed is our lead’s online date. This information could have been (and arguably already is) demonstrated through the direction, editing, and framing of Eric and the several young women we see him meet throughout the first few minutes of the film. It’s a common-enough form of character development to show our lead’s romantic situation by rushing the audience through a series of “speed dates” at the same location, and while this may be a filmmaking trope, at least it respects its viewers enough to expect them to understand its implications. What is instead given is this same trope, but with an unnecessary “tag line” to accompany it, telling instead of showing the fact that Eric is actively dating without much success.
While the majority of the dialogue in The Waiting reflects this lack of trust in its audience’s basic understanding, the script isn’t helped by overall confused performances from the majority of the cast. While it is unfair to critique these actors’ performances on a general level due to the fact that any subtext or subtlety is made redundant by the blatant exposition of the script, characters nevertheless seem to vary so widely in form from one another that they could easily all be performing in different movies. Eric behaves unabashedly cartoonish, playing comedy for comedies’ sake, and refusing to complete any menial task (be it walking, gesturing, or sorting envelopes) in a remotely human way. While this may have been an effective performance style in a completely different film, when paired with his morose and one-note manager Steve (Bob Myers), it makes his character incredibly difficult to associate with, a hindrance to our apparent audience surrogate.
The only performance which really comes across as strong and well-suited to the subject material is Ratermann’s portrayal of Elizabeth the ghost, and this could very likely be due to the fact that she doesn’t have any actual lines to deliver throughout the course of the piece. Thanks to this, Ratermann doesn’t need to grapple with the clumsy, explanatory dialogue which Rabbath has penned for the other characters, and is instead able to fully lean into as much subtlety as she is able to convey through her many lingering gazes and smoldering glares. This one strong performance goes to show that without such on-the-nose dialogue, The Waiting had the potential to have been a film with real substance.
While Rabbath’s writing and direction similarity lack substance, his work behind the camera as cinematographer for the piece certainly stands out as a high point for the otherwise low-hitting film. With great clarity of image, and strong visual story-telling, Rabbath’s sweeping establishing shots, and beautifully captured unique settings lend a cold, fragile beauty to what is an overall visually attractive movie. However, odd choices in focus and perspective dampen even this positive attribute of the film.
For the most part, it seems the film insists on remaining at least partially out of focus for almost all character-centered close ups. While this may well have been a stylized choice to cause the audience to remain ill-at-ease in the presence of our lead characters, in the end it will simply cause watchers to question their choice of optometrist after squinting throughout large portions of the film.
In terms of narrative clarity, the pacing and editing of the film are both thoroughly disconnected from the realities of the script. We are told a character leaves his room within thirty seconds of entering, and yet this same character exits the scene in a completely different outfit than he wore upon entry—going from a suit and tie to a forcefully comedic leopard-print robe in such a supposedly short amount of time. Such confusing examples litter the film, causing it to feel more like a collection of individual scenes rather than a succinct and fluid story.
While conflict is certainly introduced in the film with the proposed demolition of the hotel and subsequent disappearance of the undead Elizabeth, the manner through which Eric attempts to tackle this problem seems muddled and without purpose, causing him to stumble clumsily through the final act of the movie instead of working purposefully towards his goal. And although The Waiting wraps up with an overall unexpected and genuinely surprising finale, the lead into this climax feels similarly as un-earned and over-explanatory as the rest of the film.
Written, directed, shot and edited by Rabbath, this film perfectly demonstrates the importance of collaboration in the film industry. Perhaps, had there been several varied voices involved in the creation of the movie, audiences would be receiving a more polished and accessible feature film, instead of one creator’s unique yet ultimately out of focus vision of this promising premise.