By Don Simpson | December 26, 2014
Director: Dylan Pasture
Writers: Dylan Pasture, Katey Parker
Starring: Jesse Rudoy, Lindsay Burdge, Lauren McCune, Katey Parker, Lucia Brizzi, Sofy Maxman, Frank Mosley, Mary Murphy
Gus (Jesse Rudoy) is a somewhat functioning alcoholic who is planning to open a one-screen movie theater in a quaint East Coast island town. Karen (Lindsay Burdge) has been hired to help Gus get the theater ready for its first screening, which is a mere two weeks away. She immediately discovers that one of her “other duties as assigned” is to hopelessly try to wrangle Gus into showing up at the theater on time for work. Day after day, Gus finds different ways to stall, seemingly frightened to take the first step towards opening the theater. It seems as though Gus is even reluctant — or ill-prepared — to provide Karen with a list of what work still needs to be done.
Lonely and depressed following a devastating break-up, Gus cannot seem to get motivated to do anything. Whenever he is not drinking, he is battling massive hangovers and in desperate need of clearing his head. The only times that Gus seems even remotely interested in work are when Karen is paying attention to someone else. The disappointment in Gus’ face says it all when Karen states that she is married — he had obviously expected something romantic to transpire from their working relationship. Sexual tension permeates the space whenever they are together and the uncomfortable undertones are escalated by Gus’ harem of young women — Bonnie (Lauren McCune), Ruby (Sofy Maxman) and Andy (Lucia Brizzi) — who seem to be magnetically attracted to him. Gus appears to be the only single, twentysomething guy on the island and these women are desperate for his attention. All the while, Karen grows increasingly irritated by Gus’ attitude towards work, women and life.
Writer-director Dylan Pasture makes a few key references to the masks that people wear in order to hide [from] something. Gus uses alcohol as his emotional mask. If Gus is good at anything, it is numbing his feelings via an eternal cycle of drunkenness and hangovers. Oddly enough, the only thing that Gus feels able to openly admit is that he does not enjoy sex. Karen, on the other hand, has not found an effective way to hide her emotions. She bears the traditionally feminine trait of wearing her feelings on her sleeves — the same can be said for the other females of Satisfaction. It is overwhelmingly clear that all of these characters are unable to get any emotional satisfaction from their current situations.
One thing that Karen and Gus have in common is that they are both hiding from the bitter reality of their lives. Gus is a bored orphan who lives off of a hefty inheritance, whiling away his time in a family vacation house in order to avoid any semblance of responsibility. The concept of the theater functions as a means to perpetuate the charade that Gus is an eccentric entrepreneur who has plans to do something, which matters more to him than actually succeeding at anything. Karen, too, has come to the island to avoid a loveless marriage that has grown into one of financial convenience. The biggest difference between Karen and Gus is that Karen has a reasonable plan to break out of her emotional rut. Karen is studying for the LSAT and hopes to enroll in law school. Gus, on the other hand, claims that he wants to open a one-screen repertory theater to promote high-minded culture on a seemingly underpopulated island.
Similar to my comments on Lindsay Burdge’s breakout performance in A Teacher, she possesses an uncanny ability to utilize her gaze and body movements to subliminally communicate emotions and vulnerabilities. While her role in A Teacher is emotionally unhinged, it is the subtlety of Burdge’s performance that works so well within the minimalist context of Satisfaction.