Saturday, September 17, 2011

[SIFF11] The Selling (International Premiere)

Ask anyone if real estate agents have ethics, and you're bound to get a fair share of horror stories about those who don't, for the sake of sales revenue and to line their own pockets with fat commissions, who can sell just about any property by glossing over pertinent details and avoiding taboo ones so that some sucker out there would lay down some hard earned capital. For Richard Scarry (Gabriel Diani), he's a down to earth, all round nice guy who just couldn't lie, and finds himself in a fix when he and his business partner Dave Ross (Jonathan Klein) got duped by a rival agent Mary (Janet Verney) in getting a haunted house (along Elm Street no less) on their portfolio, only to find that getting rid of it isn't exactly a walk in the park.

Gabriel Diani, who also wrote the story, had crafted a fine, independent film that's essentially a horror-comedy treatment sorely missed these days, where its intend to scare is light, and balanced with a good dose of comedy and wit as it pays homage to a number of horror classics that genre fans will not fail to identify. What's more, there's a fair bit of narrative going on with a piece of mystery woven in, since it involves no less than 12 ghosts, where their unfinished business gets in the way of our real estate agents who try their best to auction the house, only to have their efforts thwarted since nobody in the right frame of mind will want to get something alive like Hausu.

If I can draw some parallels, it's story-telling is along the same vein as Ghostbusters as well as The Frighteners, with the ghouls are none too threatening, and despite it being modestly budgeted, have enough special effects magic in it to juice the film up, while not forsaking what's primarily essential in any film, a solid storyline. It's almost like a tale of two halves, where we get to see indirect references to recent housing woes in the USA and the comedic bantering between man and spirit as Richard and Dave try to find a compromise with the inherent occupants of the property, and montages used as set pieces for comedy when all things are light and dandy. The later half though progressively got a bit more sinister with intent and objectives being revealed, though again fit for young ones as events were kept deliberately light for broad based appeal.

What worked in its favour is the strength of the characters that Diani created, although some may argue that they're pretty much one-dimensional, such as Dave as the partner whose nature and mannerisms never fail to become punchlines, or how Mary as their nemesis they love to hate remains pretty much consistent throughout, each character has enough quirks to make them uniquely appealing. Gabriel Diani himself probably plays the most complex amongst all since he's the leading man undergoing profound experiences, while real life partner Etta Devine stars as the ghostly expert/blogger who lends a helping hand. Nancy Lenehan plays Richard's cancer-suffering mom who still has a degree of spunk for life and attitude, and the banter between mother and son as mentioned by Diani during the Q&A, is based very much with his own late mother.

The Selling scores in it not trying too hard, and has many endearing elements that demands a second viewing. I know it's still early in the festival, but this will probably end up as one of the most entertaining that packs a solid narrative punch despite its compact 90 minutes. Highly recommended so make sure you do get to watch it if you can as it does its festival rounds. Stay tuned throughout the end credits as well for a number of comedic stingers.

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