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SXSW Review Capsule: 'King Kelly'

Photo of Steve Greene By Steve Greene | Criticwire March 13, 2012 at 3:54PM

Can a film shot on an iPhone be able to say enough about our culture while actually being a compelling film? Apparently, yes.
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Odds are good that, by now, you're probably tired of the phrase "found footage." In the wake of a bevy of horror franchises built under the same conceit, the genre's grown exponentially over the last half-decade. While it remains to be seen whether "King Kelly" will be the last frontier in this particular cinematic realm, the production style that produced it is garnering some significant attention.

The film follows the titular blond female beauty, who documents not only the sex-related activities she broadcasts from her family's basement, but her attempts to shock and pester seemingly everyone close to her. Much like Kelly (Louisa Krause) does within the confines of the film's narrative, director Andrew Neel and his crew shot "King Kelly" largely on iPhones.

Andrew Neel's "King Kelly."
Andrew Neel's "King Kelly."

The way the film is framed is bringing out mixed feelings from some critics, including Indiewire's Eric Kohn. "Although impressively structured, the framing device isn't always believable," he writes. Although, in his estimation, the film transcends its limitations, concluding that "it's a unflinching update to media scholar Neil Postman's prophetic claim about the deadly impact of television on cultural identity: Smartphones in hand, we face the danger of filming ourselves to death."

Steve Dollar, writing for GreenCine Daily, echoes the sentiment that the true effectiveness of "King Kelly" goes beyond just the movie's technical deftness. "Propelled by Krause's charismatic performance, the film intends to be a commentary on what it presents, but that never keeps it from being absurdly entertaining, even as it illustrates how life in middle-class America has become a degraded digital fantasy," Dollar explains.

When compared to much of the films at this year's SXSW, TimeOut Chicago's Ben Kenigsberg argues that the film indulges in a level of surreality more than its shooting methods would indicate. The film's "portrait of teen narcissism is so outrageous that it can't be taken as literal," he writes. "Whether you find the movie shocking or exploitative, there's a lot to talk about here. In a festival that's been filled with a lot of pretty good but uninspiring titles, that kind of ambition seems worth celebrating."

Instant Twitterverse Reaction:

"Sure to be divisive but I thought this found footage flick on modern youth culture was super interesting. A #sxsw highlight." - Matt Singer, Criticwire

"KING KELLY is the kind of movie PROJECT X wishes it could be. Funny, dark, sexy tale about reckless irresponsibility and phoniness…Terrific lead performance by Louisa Krause as KING KELLY too." - Erik Childress, eFilmCritic.com

"Biggest surprise of SXSW so far besides REC3 sucking? The cellphone movie, KING KELLY, is pretty goddamn great." - Rob Hunter, FilmSchoolRejects

"KING KELLY: a meditation on our self-obsessed internet culture that is equal parts fascinating, shocking and cringe-worthy." - Erin McCarthy, Popular Mechanics

This article is related to: South By Southwest Film Conference and Festival (SXSW), King Kelly, Review Capsules


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