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Scalene (2011): Three’s a Crowd

Scalene (Zack Parker, 2011)

A multi-colored eye in a mono-hued face adorns the movie poster.

The eyes are the windows to the story.
photo credit: IMDB

The main problem with Scalene is that it is roughly half of a very interesting movie. We get all of the setup, and then just when the story is about to kick into gear, the movie ends and you realize that what you thought was the crucial piece of the setup was, in fact, meant as a twist ending. And to be fair to the movie, it does function that way, but it still feels like setup—and that makes it lack the twist-ending punch that would at least give it the gravitas necessary to perform its function in that regard.

Margo Martindale and her revolver in a still from the film.

Rule of thumb: any movie that begins with Margo Martindale brandishing a gun is probably worth your time.
photo credit: New York Times

Jakob Trimble (Stake Land‘s Adam Scarimbolo) is twenty-six, mute, and somewhat mentally challenged. His mother Janice (Justified‘s Margo Martindale) has done most of the caregiving, though she mentions in one scene that he has also had a series of outside caregivers as well. The most recent of them is Paige (The Virgin Suicides‘ Hanna Hall). The film gives us a year of Paige working for Janice and Jakob through the eyes of all three participants. Something has gone terribly wrong, however; in the opening shot, we see Janice showing up at Paige’s front door brandishing a gun. From there, we go back to when Paige is initially hired, and we see how we get from point A to point B.

Paige and Jakob sit on the grass contemplating in a still from the film.

“If this is a picnic, we forgot the mayonnaise.”
photo credit:

While I think this is a minor spoiler (I have been trying to avoid spoilers throughout despite a number of them appearing in every synopsis of the movie I have read), it’s really something you want to know heading into this: it is a nasty little movie. There are no good guys here. That’s interesting, because the movie is set up to be all good guys; Parker is playing the meta here, and he’s pretty effective about it. (There is a scene early in the movie that you may spend some time wondering about. That scene is the one that tips Parker’s hand that there are no good guys, not even the most obvious one.) Balancing that out , of course, is the missing second half of this movie. What should have been setup for the actual movie, which I think would have ended up being a bang-up trial thriller, is instead climax. The trade-off is that it does work in that it seems to inspire a good deal of discussion in the places one finds such things on the Internet, and I will certainly not complain about a filmmaker leaving unanswered questions when it makes sense in the context (it does here). I wonder if there’s going to be a sequel? ** ½


About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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