Nov 11, 2022
Kevin Leslie, Anita Chui, Xander Berkeley
Written and directed by Bizhan Tong, The Audition is a psychological thriller where aspiring actor, Larry Boyle, must fight to keep the people in his life alive. So described as ‘the audition of a lifetime,’ and with the majority of the action on video calls, the story weaves in and out of Larry being controlled by a faceless voice online who takes sadistic pleasure in playing a confusing and cruel game with Larry. Having his narrative controlled for him, Larry must confront his demons along with his discomforts. Tong’s bleak feature raises questions of surviving a global pandemic whilst trying to make sense of what is real.
The film deals with feelings that audiences will remember well from times of quarantine and questions all through the lens of a mediocre and opinionated actor trying to find work. Larry’s mindset is warped by ideas of hoaxes and institutional racism and at first the script is jarring as you cannot quite place the tone. His opinions are dangerous, and the film is trying to make a point of this, particularly that he wishes to “preserve white history.” Him having no redeemable qualities means that the viewer cannot hold any sympathy for him even after he starts experiencing the life-or-death challenges set for him. As it seems as though the film seeks to raise awareness of the selfishness of humanity, this leaves the overall tone to fall flat at times.
Tong clearly wants viewers to consider what a post-covid world could look like amongst a society with divided people. A running theme of cancel culture and anxieties over doxing sets the feature up to be an all-consuming video call world for Larry to navigate and battle his way out of. As everything spirals out of control, he questions the world around him like never before. It is a very unfeeling feature in its brutal violence and bizarre playing with people’s lives. As Larry is caught up in a game orchestrated for him, what happens in front of his screen is very all-consuming as he starts to question who the anonymous voice is.
Camera shots throughout the film are very clever and consist of varying angles and tacking shots during scenes. As a result, the film feels very three-dimensional and has a very high production value. Cut between these scenes are real footage clips of George Floyd protests and #BlackLivesMatter events, as well as people in their own homes on video calls commenting on social issues. This mix of media adds a realistic dimension to the film as though we are witnessing another aspect of society in an online format.
However, despite this interesting concept, the film does feel slow and drawn out in parts. The script is overdone at times and the plot grows confusing as it develops out of control. We struggle to make sense of what is going on as the characters do and continue to question the ‘screen reality’ that we are presented with. Tension is built up well within intense scenes and there is plenty more unpredictability in the second half of the thriller, but action sequences are lacking and are sometimes not very believable.
Each acting performance is the saving grace of this film as it is incredibly emotive, particularly during more dramatic moments. Viewers do not have a hard time believing what each character goes through, as their mortality is continually threatened. Questions are also raised concerning acting and the entertainment industry, alongside inauthentic representation for the viewer. Although unsure if the filmmaking intentions are good or not, racism is interrogated on screen and Larry in particular is not redeemed for his negative speech.
The Audition subverts expectations in that it allows viewers to route for the innocent characters rather than a flawed and bigoted protagonist. It is dark in excessive measures and focuses on human suffering during and after an unprecedented social event.