Visuals / Camera
Pacing / Editing
Mood / Atmosphere
Entertainment Value / X-Factor
A feature length film that could have worked better as a short film.
I was approached to review this film by C.J. Wallis, who is the man responsible for filling out most of the crew member positions on this film, such as writer, director, editor, cinematographer, producer, and so much more. Most notably, he’s just simply a pretty cool dude to shoot the shit with, which I discovered while shooting messages back and forth on Twitter.
He asked me to review his latest offering for him, whether it be good or bad. That’s when I decided to hit up my good ole buddy, Doctor Briggs. whom watched the film with me, and we’ve decided to do a joint review. Therefore, this review will consist of both of our opinions.
That being said, this is our review of BB.
BB is a film that follows a young woman in love with a same sex partner as they struggle to make it in California. Just like many youngsters in love, she would do anything for her partner — even if that means putting forth cash to support the woman’s ailing mother overseas. Unfortunately, the young girl has to objectify herself by becoming an adult webcam model in order to fund the trip for her lover.
Among her followers is an Iraq war veteran going by the screen name Hornyhal, who sets up a private video journal in which he confesses his obsession for his favorite model. Claiming that his love is truer than that of her girlfriend or her other followers, he plans to take advantage of her online raffle to go on a date with one viewer. When it becomes increasingly unlikely that his desires will come true, he becomes unhinged, spying on her through a hacked webcam, and planning to meet in person, alone.
*Note – My test (Bojangles) will be in red. Dr. Briggs text will be in blue. The final score in the rating box is a combined percentage of our individual overall ratings.
The acting didn’t necessarily stand out, good or bad. This is a good thing, in my opinion, as indie films are typically known for their horrid acting. I’m happy to say that this wasn’t a problem as far as BB is concerned. However, I will say that our protagonist, played by Jennifer Mae, definitely had some great emotional moments in the film, which leads me to say that the acting is more on the good side of things, rather than the bad.
BB is a character-driven film foremost, and thereby depends highly on the caliber of its actors’ performances. We spend large amounts of time with each of the three main characters, and short but impactful segments with others.
The acting in question is faultless, and each performance conveys the awkwardness and frustration that goes hand in hand with the voyeurism of the webcam performer industry, both those who act and those who watch.
Visuals / Camera
This is a film that takes place mostly inside the confines of an apartment building / house. Therefore, there’s really not many opportunities for some sort of super wide angle shots. Instead, most of the action takes place indoors, and the camera man definitely did his best for what he had. There’s a lot of sex scenes in the film that were clearly shot with great care, proper lighting, and depth of field that would make adult film auteurs jealous.
However, I do think that there were some missed opportunities as far as the cinematography is concerned. I’m a fan of filmmakers taking the camera off of the tripod, but this entire film seemed to have been shot handheld. There’s no doubt that the cameraman was capable of shooting handheld, and he did a great job, but it would have been really nice if he would have strapped the camera on a stabilizer and got us some nice, artsy shots. I definitely think he has the talent to make it happen, so it would have been nice to see.
BB is, a traditional footage film with assorted found footage segments within, although the entire film is shot with a found footage ‘flair,’ utilizing handheld shooting throughout. This feels both like the film’s most distinctive feature, and unfortunately its most marked misfire as well.
While the handheld shots do fairly well at making the performances seem more candid, and the characters by extension more genuinely off-kilter and out of control of their own stories – this sense of disorientation is likely to hurt the audience’s immersion moreso than draw them in. There are few shots in BB that effectively frame characters, or their actions, in such a way that makes them memorable or deepens their impact. In some scenes, it’s even difficult to discern what we’re meant to be seeing, hurting the film’s storytelling.
When I was sent this film for review, one of the things I noticed in the press release was that it boasted quite the soundtrack. Whether or not a film can benefit from a soundtrack, however, depends completely on the filmmaker and their use of the soundtrack in question. Simply put, there are some films that can benefit from an amazing soundtrack, and there’s some films that simply don’t need one. Unfortunately, I think that the creators were so excited that they had so many artists submitting music for the film’s soundtrack that they overused it. It felt like every scene in the film had a score behind it, and this didn’t benefit the film. As a matter of fact, it was a bit distracting, and took you out of the mood that they were trying to establish.
The soundtrack to BB’s scenes consists of an impressive setlist (39 tracks!) of modern tunes that might feel at home in your local club. Their utilization is a very hit-or-miss affair. While a majority of the songs hit the right spot, capturing a melancholic feeling of grunge that fits perfectly with the hedonism of watching girls undress for you (and those same girls using your cash to get hammered and buy new equipment), when the truly horrific events of the film’s plot set in, these tracks start to feel too confident. It doesn’t help that oftentimes they play through the entirety of a scene, in spite of the shifting moods within.
The story of the film isn’t something that hasn’t been explored before. It’s basically a young lady that’s in love who will do anything for her partner, but her partner doesn’t necessarily reciprocate. As you can imagine, the woman’s life begins to spiral down a dark path, as she begins to use drugs and alcohol to cope with her newfound way of making some quick cash to support her girlfriend. In addition to this, she’s being stalked by an unstable man. It’s not necessarily a bad story, but it’s one that we’ve seen told many times before.
As for the story of BB, it’s a largely standard stalker tale at heart. From the start, you can tell that Hornyhal is bad news for our two unwary camgirls, and events unfold in a relatively predictable manner from there with little to set it apart from similar stories. I can’t entirely fault it for this, as it plays the story as creepy as it should be played, with a few interesting touches here and there. A foreign woman betrayed Hornyhal during his deployment, and the object of his affection’s girlfriend happens to be from Romania. The freshest shock in the plot comes from the girlfriend ditching her love to go back to Romania alone, shying away from old standby of the stalking victim having close friends who the stalker whittles down one by one. So while BB suffers from a bit of unoriginality, it tells its story in a fairly solid way, and manages to throw in at least a few surprises.
Pacing / Editing
Now, this is where the film really begins to fall apart, as the story simply isn’t enough to support a full-fledged feature film. There are points in the story that just simply drag on for far too long, and you may find yourself searching for the fast forward button. For instance, there’s a lot of nude scenes between the two girls, and there’s a decent amount of cam show scenes. Now, I’ll be the first to say that I definitely am not complaining about nudity in film, but it’s the same scenes over and over. Honestly, you could go to an adult cam show site and get the full-on experience by professional chicks that do this stuff for a living.
I feel that this is one of those cases where you have the ability to make a full feature film, but you have to really ask yourself whether you should make a full-length film, or not.
The pacing and editing of BB suffer from the same disorientating problem as the camerawork; events aren’t told in a way that make them stick out in the viewer’s mind, and are sometimes put together so unclearly that it’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on. The sound mix occasionally muffles key dialogue next to the pumping along of the soundtrack, which combined with the choppy way shots are put together makes it hard to tell when we’re about to get crucial information, or simply more of our protagonists partying. There’s hardly a change in pace between the exposition and the final conflict – and while I do not advocate rushing the first act of a film to get to the blood and guts, the multiple love scenes and occasional drug scenes near the introduction feel like plodding. It isn’t until near the middle of the film (Madman Martinez’s wonderfully awkward ‘date,’ one of the rare scenes in which the editing style shines) that the action began to draw me in.
The characters in this film was a strong point, in my opinion. This isn’t your typical love story, and these aren’t your typical, happy-go-lucky characters. Instead, they’re human, and they have flaws just like everyone else, which you’ll discover as you progress through the film. I’m not saying that you’re going to fall in love with the characters, but you’ll likely be able to sympathize with some of their situations, and maybe even relate to them.
The characters, thankfully, were interesting enough to keep me invested in the film until the end. Maybe I’m just a sucker for loser-turned-stalker stories, but the film’s antagonist felt palpably creepy, like a man who really would be deluded enough to believe he can fall in love with a woman he’s never met in person putting on a show for the world. His obsession actually being a lesbian made him seem all the more reprehensible, for ignoring the real person behind the camera.
But the real attraction here is that neither the stalker nor his victim are painted as fully justified. She is making money for a woman who actually doesn’t really love her. He is fixated on an injury that he never actually incurred. The self-delusion of both characters is what makes BB the beginning of an interesting study, even though you’re left wanting a lot more by the film’s sudden ending.
Entertainment Value / X-Factor
Unfortunately, the entertainment value of this film is practically non-existent. I’m not saying that you’re not going to get something out of this, but it isn’t one of those films that you’re going to want to go back and rewatch. The story is fairly basic, and the film just seems to drag on for far too long.
Between the samey cinematography and editing, the only mildly out of the ordinary plot, and the characters who tease at greater depth that’s never completely capitalized on, BB disappointingly doesn’t hold much re-watch value. There are some promising elements to be found in the film, but these elements aren’t fully refined enough to overpower its great number of scenes we’ve seen done better elsewhere.
Mood / Atmosphere
The overall mood and atmosphere of this film are its strong points. It really feels like you’re watching someone’s life completely go down the shitter on film, and that’s an unfortunate reality for a lot of people out there. You really get the sense of desperation, anxiety, anger and depression from the female lead. It’s just a very bleak feeling, and I think that’s definitely what the filmmakers wanted to get across on camera, and in that sense, they did a great job.
The primary mood of BB is one of turmoil and depression. The effect of the characters relating their struggles to the camera alongside the dizzying camerawork paints a picture of a largely pointless, indulgent day to day life for the entire cast of characters. This mood is profound, and there is little genuine warmth to be found in the film’s world. This is one of BB’s most remarkable features, to convey such a miserable feeling without being overtly obvious about it. Not quite enough to fully fascinate by itself, but definitely something I’d love to see the director employ again in the next script he directs.
Overall, I liked the film a little bit more than my co-reviewer, but that still doesn’t mean that I enjoyed the overall experience. The film dragged on and on — leading up to a climax that was very lackluster. I think this film could have worked so much better had it been a short film. There’s definitely some talent both onscreen and behind the lens, but I think they were a little overzealous in their approach on this one. Still, I think this is the early efforts of some talented people that have a bright future.
BB is a film that suffers most from not being quite ambitious enough to set it apart from other micro-budget features. Its plot is likely nothing you haven’t seen before, and while it contains a number of smaller, more distinctive features, these aren’t fleshed out to an extent that the film really comes into its own. I agree with Bo’s opinion that BB could have worked better as a short, as its basic story is familiar enough that it could have been streamlined, and its parts often prove greater than its whole.