24 Exposures (2013)
★ / ★★★★
There is a way to make every day lives interesting, but writer-director Joe Swanberg has not found a way to capture cinematic qualities in seemingly small moments—which is why “24 Exposures” is ultimately a waste of time and film. Just about everything about the picture is intolerable, from the lack of a compelling script to the way certain scenes—which are supposed to make us care about the murder mystery—are shot.
The plot involves a dead woman, a detective (Simon Barrett), and a photographer (Adam Wingard) who just so happens to be the main suspect. But the plot is irrelevant because the screenplay finds one excuse too many to avoid dealing with it head-on. Instead, we get numerous and increasingly tired scenes where women’s bodies are objectified whether it be by way of being topless or a woman kissing another woman. We are even forced to sit through a warmup for a threesome. These are moments when the camera is most still and focused.
One might claim that the film is about modern voyeurism and how it desensitizes. After all, the main character, Billy, is used to observing the world through the lens of his camera, the subjects almost always being women who wish to start a career in the entertainment industry. The subjects regard him as someone who can potentially ignite their careers while he sees them as mere objects. And when the camera is not in his hands, he views the world through his spectacles—every image is, in a way, filtered.
But to make such a claim gives the work undue credit. While elements that can make such a commentary valid are present, there is a lack of well-defined connective tissues to give the claim weight. So, in the end, one gets the impression that the writer-director has no idea what he wishes to communicate, that he is too lazy to actually try and make his work cohesive.
The film has neither dramatic core nor a convincing tension. At first, it appears as though we are supposed to care about Billy, his girlfriend, and their open relationship, but it fails to evolve into anything other than two people sharing the same room and sleeping together once a while. Then the whole subplot of the detective trying to be friends with Billy is introduced and so the murder mystery is swept under the rug completely. Swanberg forgets to convince the audience why we should care about the story and the characters in it.
“24 Exposures” is one exposure too many. With a running time of under eighty minutes, it feels so much longer because so-called scenes are placed in front of us and barely anything of consequence happens. The movie is not for everyone, not even patient viewers. Maybe it’s for audiences who are braindead but to even make such a claim is cruel—because the movie is not for anybody other than for Swanberg’s masturbation of his ego.