Directed by Daniel Bergeson
Starring Chris Larson, Alex Weiland, Rodney Bergeson, Nate Hults, & Nic McGuire
Short Film Review by Kirsty Asher
The opening of this film greets the audience with a man cheerily humming La Dona è Mobile while preparing a lasagne for dinner. This could have been amusing if I’d been able to see the facial expression of the actor as he flamboyantly smells his food but unfortunately a high angle over-shoulder close-up means all we see is an uncooked lasagne. Definitely a mark missed here.
The same can be said for much of the comedy found in the rest of What’s Up Water Cup?. The story, according to the filmmakers Daniel Bergeson and Chris Larson, is a farcical tale of a father with a steely determination to help his son pick up women while he is unwittingly married to a man. In the age of identity politics and transgender activism, the ‘she’s a dude!?’ story falls a bit flat and the larger-than-life father character Jerry with a filthy sense of humour quickly becomes tiresome.
It’s a shame, because there are moments that could have been funny but inevitably fall short at the punchline. There is a moment where the father mistakenly shows his son a picture of Orson Welles on his phone instead of his wife and then claims it’s a co-worker. When the son then castigates him for mistaking his wife for his “bearded male co-worker” it takes the joke a step too far by assuming the audience will still find it funny having recognised Welles, but this is 2017 and not everyone is that clued up.
The main issue I take with this film is that it’s been marketed as farcical. There are certainly elements of farce in the compilation of the screenplay and I think in the hands of more well-versed actors this could have been displayed more fervently. Yet the earnest, straight-man performance in the American comedic style doesn’t match up with this genre, and the camerawork is far too static for a short film that claims to be farcical: a Trailer Park Boys-esque mockumentary style of camerawork could have pulled this story off with real aplomb, but it seems more that the filmmakers wanted to employ techniques that showed off their technical skill rather than adhered to the style of comedy.
What’s more, for a story that centres itself on cross-dressing and transgenderism it’s clear the filmmakers have done little research into either subculture. Again, it’s disappointing, as employing an actual drag queen in the library scene where the father hits on a guy in drag would have endlessly boosted the comedic potential. It’s not even a question of the $250 micro-budget when research nowadays can be as easy and cheap as reaching out to the trans and drag queen community on Twitter with a few questions. In light of the budget, though, they’ve done incredibly well to produce an excellent credits sequence, clean editing and a skilled mastery of continuity.
The strongest asset of What's Up Water Cup? is the son Chris and his love interest Alex. Alex Weiland’s performance in the role is confident, naturalistic and alluring. The two actors play off each other so well in their scenes together, and the actor playing Chris gives a good performance as a befuddled and anxious teenager with finely-tuned comedic timing.
Despite the crass handling of the content, the story ends in a touching mode of acceptance and revelation, although this is somewhat goaded by the cutesy xylophone music so often utilised in baby animal YouTube compilations, and it’s clear that the film has been strongly storyboarded and presents a clear narrative.