Life on Pause
4 Apr 2022
Daniel Desmarais, Jackie McCarthy, BJ Gruber
Using a combination of Youtube aesthetics and throwback ‘80s parody, Life On Pause uses its bitter cameraman to find resentment behind the lens.
The opening sequence of grainy wedding videos is a comforting trip through nostalgia, using pop music and hazy transitions to preserve those moments of joy. The quick change from this to the brightly lit, clean footage of the present is a jarring movement. Contrasting the carefully protected footage of past happiness, here everything is over-lit and over-cut, with vlog-style close-ups and quick zooms to inject an intensity and frenetic feeling.
The film follows Adam, a wedding videographer toxically pining for an ex who is now engaged to another man. Seen as enough of a non-threat to even be at the wedding, his humiliation forms the majority of the story, forced to captured the spectacle of their marriage while watching from the sidelines.
His cruel bitterness has led to an absurd psychosis, having conversations with himself and imagining increasingly unlikely scenarios. His nightmare at the beginning sees him rushing to a church to film a couple’s wedding, unaware that his haste prevented him from remembering to wear trousers.
Public humiliation is a running theme, and evidently he has nobody who respects him. His inner monologue of resentment conveys him as a manic madman who is singularly focused on re-ensnaring a woman who has clearly moved on. His behaviour makes it hard to connect to him in any way, and particularly difficult to see why anybody, including the object of his twisted affection, should pay him any attention at all. Yet, he’s not unique in his unpleasantness, as everyone around him, including her, are equally grotesque in everything they say. Alienating with every word, characters such as her husband Trevor use phrases like “what’s crack-a-lackin?”
Any comedy to be derived from this is lost through the lack of inventive jokes. Some lines play like Carry On-level puns, or overly-intent attempts at quirk. For instance, the Mr Peterson’s constant lecturing about maps felt like it should be a rewarding running joke throughout, yet there was nothing charming about him and it ultimately seemed ridiculous that anyone would entertain someone whose only discernible quality is liking maps.
Jokes such as the opening scene’s “not so sure about the equipment” line are so overtly cliched that their constant recycling leaves the humour numb. However, as the credits reveal, there was worse material, as alternate takes are interspersed to give a sense of what we were spared. It’s comforting to know that at least in relative terms, the best options were chosen, but the parodic puns are so brazenly on-the-nose that even relatively funny is nowhere near funny enough.
Some of this alienation is accounted for by the period in which is presumably set, allowing for some ironic distance from its content. Specific terminology roots the characters in that period, explaining away some of their more awful traits. Having recently rewatched some ‘80s movies that I had once considered favourites and found them unwatchable, I can see the value in apeing some of those particular traditions.
The ‘nice guy’ trope is particularly at play here, taking the put-upon underdog character and viewing the story through his eyes. The man’s own camera is used to reinforce this notion, using its lens as the obsessive eyes watching and capturing those around him. Unfortunately underused, this visual structure is a more powerful expression of his stalker-like attitude and cruel obsession.
The new man, defined by his larger physique and self-confidence, is naturally positioned as the enemy through abhorrent behaviour and possession of the nice guy’s object of desire. This dynamic often overlooks some of the nice guy’s own despicable behaviour, providing him a free pass by way of moral polarisation. For this reason, it can be refreshing to see the nice guy instead given his comeuppance. But his sinister nature is largely overlooked, instead falling back into tired jokes and chaotic visuals which become aggressive and difficult to tolerate.