The Holes In The Friendship: Our Review Of ‘Dim the Fluorescents’

Posted in Movies by - December 07, 2017
The Holes In The Friendship: Our Review Of ‘Dim the Fluorescents’

There are two kinds of actors, from my understanding and experience. One believes in doing the work, whether it’s roles like Hedda Gabbler or Blance DuBois. Or, as the case with Daniel Warth’s movie Dim the Fluorescents, corporate training sessions. The second kind of actor is the kind we see in movies like this one. Actors like Audrey Green (Claire Armstrong) who are curious about better work, just like people in non-creative industries do. But ones with strong friendships with her co-workers, like playwright Lillian (Naomi Skwarna).

Movies about female friendships tend to show one person becoming more successful than the other. In a way this film hinted on showing that. There’s a scene early in the film when Claire scoring in a club while Lillian skulks in the bar. This film goes in another direction, one that almost made me forget that it was another trope. The trope where one character’s frustration towards stasis is gnawing at her more than the other. They then take it on each other, as the film lets their paths diverge before a final confrontation.

The film undersells this tension but it’s apparent in the first scene. I just assumed that these corporate demonstrations just involved employees. These people either played these roles for a day or, if in video form, for posterity. The conceit that Audrey and Lillian are outside contract employees that the company brought in makes me question the thing. But the fact that they have a sound and light guy means that the film doubles down on its ridiculousness. The results are hilarious, and Audrey improvising makes sense in this world.

Audrey’s improvisations and criticisms are a light version of Margo Channing’s. However, the latter was going up against a man while Audrey was criticizing her friend. But the again Lillian might have just felt the pressure of writing stock characters. There’s an irony where these two creative people ended up being corporate drones. This predicament reflects creative industries in general that have to answer to the mighty dollar. It’s a little picture criticism of the big one.

And there’s something feminist about Audrey’s rebellion and Lillian’s self limitation. Lillian’s characters for Audrey include a nag and a mess. It’s the same way a male writer only sees women as mothers or virgins. The movie lets them encounter other women who are more successful and younger. These other women remind them of how they don’t fit the mold. The two leads see these other women as enemies. That instinct seems easier for than to confront the invisible system that oppresses them.

Audrey and Lillian knew what they were getting into when they became actresses. However, knowing it and living it is a huge difference, speaking from excperience. Through these women, the film shows how tough it can be anywhere especially in Toronto. They show us Audrey bombing auditions while the two characters enduring watching their friends become successful, like June (Clare McConnell). Having to go to June’s industry parties. And Lillian cowering in the presence of people who could give her her big break.

The two women get their big break even if it is still within the training session realm. It’s a larger audience that clock in at 300 people that they’re performing in front of. But Audrey’s criticisms of Lillian’s script start to sting, and she also want to challenge both of them. She wants to break glass on stage. That’s despite their temporary boss Gary (Todd Graham) telling them that it’s a workplace hazard. His notes, including suggesting a part for his teenage niece Fiona (Andreana Callagarini-Gradzik) infuriate both of them for different reasons.

Again, Lillian is reluctant to show her work to people besides Audrey and resents Fiona. That says a lot about the inner saboteurs that haunt creative types like us. Audrey mentions that Lillian has always wanted to create pieces with more than two characters. But like many of us, she has a fear of what’s outside of her comfort zone. Sure, there are holes in this film’s conceit but it also exposes the fears that people have.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you’re working.