Tribeca Film Festival 2011
By Don Simpson | April 23, 2011
Director: James Westby
Writer: James Westby
Starring: Katie O’Grady, John Keyser
From the moment we see Meris (Katie O’Grady) and Mitch Canfield (John Keyser) together, they seem like an odd couple. M eris is quirky and mousy, while Mitch looks like a muscle-headed football star of yesteryear. Some say that opposites attract, but from the get-go I could not stop wondering how these two ever got together. (We are left uncertain of why Meris is dressed up as a punk rock caricature in the opening scene — in which she wipes her “rag-blood” on a woman’s face — but that version of Meris is even farther from a perfect match for Mitch.)
Mitch recently lost his job in Irvine, California and Rid of Me begins as he and Meris relocate to Mitch’s hometown of Laurelwood, Oregon so that he can work as a lackey for his high school buddy, Dale Masterson (Christopher D. Harder), at CompuCon Northwest. From the moment they arrive in Laurelwood, Mitch reverts back to his hometown mindset. His “in crowd” clique of friends (all of whom seem to have married from within their pack) still have their one-dimensional jock/cheerleader mentalities, and they instantly peg Meris as an inferior.
Mitch’s friends have hated Meris since way before they met her — Meris and Mitch eloped a year and a half ago, and Mitch’s friends were not told about their wedding. Meris feels tremendous pressure to try to convince Mitch’s friends to accept her into their circle, but she cannot seem to do or say anything right around them. After a failed attempt at cooking dinner for Mitch’s friends, Meris proceeds to get drunk a let loose a bombshell of a whoopsie. It also does not help Meris’ confidence when Mitch’s high school sweetheart (Storm Large) begins to claw her way back into his life.
Meris makes some attempts at compromises to win over Mitch’s friends — such as when she becomes friends with a neighborhood couple, Linda (Adrienne Vogel) and Masud (Melik Malkasian). Mitch’s racist friends inform Meris that Masud was purportedly questioned for his supposed ties to Al Qaeda and she reluctantly stops associating with the suspected terrorists, thus perpetrating the gratuitous racial and religious profiling. (In Meris’ eyes, it would be fruitless to convince Mitch and his meat-headed friends that they are wrong.)
The most interesting aspect of Rid of Me is how it portrays Meris as a middle-class suburban housewife who has completely lost her identity. By the time they arrive in Laurelwood, Meris is merely Mitch’s wife and homemaker. But then she meets Trudy (Orianna Herrman), and suddenly “the old Meris is dead!” (the new Meris looks a heck of a lot like the Meris in the opening grocery store scene). Meris gets a job at a candy store, attends local punk shows and starts sleeping with men of questionable character (Art Alexakis, John Breen). Eventually, Meris settles down in a middle ground, somewhere between the old Meris and new Meris — and this middle ground represents the real Meris.
And now for why I scored Rid of Me as low as I did… I have a lot of problems with the unflattering production quality of Rid of Me. (To my eyes, it looks and plays like a lackluster graduate thesis film.) Writer-director James Westby also tends to rely more on lazy stereotypes than good old fashioned character development. The outcasts do not fair any better than the popular clique in their cartoonish representations — both are represented by Westby as polar extremes. All in all, I guess I just found it a shame that Westby did not focus more on developing Rid of Me‘s feminist or individualist messages; he seems much more intent in dredging up as many moments of shock and humor as possible, rather than following through with any message. Rid of Me is an example of a film that could have worked much better with a stronger, more prominent message.