By Jude Cole (Portland, OR)
We’ve all heard or read the stories about the survival jobs that many famous actors had before they hit the big time. In most cases they worked in restaurants and bars; Glenn Close temped in an office, while Dustin Hoffman drove a cab.
Then there’s Cori, the lead character in writer / director Sean Meehan’s latest short film Total Performance.
Cori is an actress, whose survival job, it would seem, would be a dream job for any actor coming up. She works for an organization where she rehearses and acts out scenarios, with folks from all walks of life, who come in and rehearse a difficult conversation, whether it’s a breakup or firing. Sounds ideal for Cori. She shows up, plays her part, gets paid and moves on. She doesn’t have to feel anything. But when her professional life and personal life collide and real life creeps in, things change for Cori and Meehan’s comic and sometimes, dark presentation of that reality is what makes Total Performance so thoroughly engaging. What Meehan does that is so expert and flawless here is that he really explores how people communicate with each other and also how they do not communicate with each other. Cori seems to be so wrapped up in her survival job, playing these parts that in essence, the real Cori disappears, leaving her broken and uncertain as the film draws to a close.
Meehan has scored as an indie short film director on several occasions and he scores here again. This is a concept that could have been played for quick, easy and even silly laughs, but Meehan instead smartly chooses to dig a little deeper with his film. The ending may be ambiguous to some, but it did not bother this reviewer. The mood for the film is perfectly captured by cinematographer Chris Loughran and an original score by Cesar Suarez.
Tory Berner is stellar as Cori, bringing poise and intelligence to her character, but also a vulnerability, when real life begins to take over for art, that is revelatory. At the end of the film, Berner’s Cori is lost and uncertain as to where to take the next step and that uncertainty sent a little bit of a chill up my spine. It’s a heck of a thing, that cold, hard truth.
Steven Conroy brings a relaxed charm and humor to his role as Tim, Cori’s potential new love interest, but as we learn in the film, everything is not as it should be with Tim.
Stand outs from the excellent supporting cast include Paul Locke as Cori’s first scene partner that we encounter and Meehan veteran Timothy J Cox, who scores in one brief scene as a CEO who must fire a close friend, who doesn’t seem to appreciate Cori’s often cold and indifferent approach.
Shot in Boston and produced by Meehan’s company, Cross River Pictures.
The film has already received some festival love, with an appearance in New York’s Big Apple Film Festival this past fall.
For information on the film please visit the Internet Movie Database.