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One of the greatest attributes of independent film is its absolute freedom to be whatever it wants. Whether it’s breaking new ground by showing subject matter, techniques or points of view mainstream audiences never get to see onscreen, or simply the ability to relate something simple in a different way. Written, directed by and starring Scott Prendergast, Kabluey takes full advantage of that indie freedom and gives its audience a fresh, off-the-wall, clever approach to an intriguing story.

After her husband’s National Guard tour of Iraq is extended, Leslie undergoes her own brand of post-traumatic stress being left to raise two small hellions on her own. Blowsy and unkempt, she’s pushed to the edge of her tether with two undisciplined sons.  Leslie’s mother-in-law suggests calling in Noah’s hapless brother, Salman to help with the kids. Salman is an affable loser recently fired from his last job at a copy shop for falling under the irresistible thrall of the laminating machine. (Like Salman, I would have laminated everything in the shop I could get my hands on.) Salman even makes bold fashion statements with his laminating talents that his bosses don’t seem to appreciate. Leslie invites Salman to become an unpaid, live-in au pair without considering his childcare skills or providing him with a bedding arrangement other than a puke-laden sleeping bag. As for his two small charges, these kids would get Supernanny arrested by Child Welfare Services. Salman get a full-blast dose of his nephews’ unrelenting screaming and mayhem. One homicidal kid might be possessed by Pazuzu.

Leslie pulls strings at her failing dot com to get Salman a job as a company mascot. The puffy blue costume and watermelon-shaped head completely disguise Salman, who can only see out of a tiny grill in the front. He has to contort himself around the back of the fluffy prison to find a small opening in the back to grasp anything as the suit is devoid of any prehensile device, like gloves. For some reason, Salman’s overworked, tightfisted personnel supervisor thinks leaving the mascot by the side of a blistering hot farm road, far away from shops or people is the most useful placement for the corporate symbol to hand out flyers announcing the company’s available office space. The reaction the amorphous, faceless blue costume receives ranges from delight to terror to pity. Salman uses both the invisibility and the adoration of the blue costume to find his place amongst his family and his new neighbours.

Prendergast has crafted a charming, original way to tell a bittersweet and poignant story. Lisa Kudrow as the depressed mother of two attention-craving small boys coping with the absence of their father is brilliant. It is hard to judge Leslie’s selfishness; she is in a tailspin with her husband away at war and her inattention to her children, her rudeness to her brother-in-law and her reckless affair with her boss are all results of the loss of the anchor of her husband’s presence. Her distraction and aimlessness is as much a symptom of the dysfunction in her life as is her boys’ acting out. In a moment that is powerful, yet never cloying, Leslie heartbreakingly vents to Salman about how she never pictured being a war bride after husband Noah’s tour in Iraq was extended and how a year and a half without him was a really long time. Prendergast plays Salman, the well-meaning ne’er-do-well brother of the absent soldier, who now has to cope with more responsibility than he ever has before, trying to hold down the home front and care for his brother’s wife and boys. Out of the cocoon of the padded blue costume, Salman emerges as a grown-up at long last, taking charge of the boys’ happiness and attempting to protect Leslie from her own foolishness while sympathizing with the loneliness that has taken over her life.

Besides Kudrow, a not-so-low budget supporting cast comprised of Zoolander’s Christine Taylor, Teri Garr, Saturday Night Live’s Chris Parnell, Grey’s Anatomy’s Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and TV stalwart Conchata Ferrell proves that even when the most expensive thing in your film is a big blue mascot costume, if you deliver a wise, funny, intelligent script, good actors will come.

Kabluey is a fun and quirky delight. Beneath its eccentric premise, Scott Prendergast has created a deceptively insightful tale infused with a gentleness and humour that fans of independent film and folks who simply love good storytelling will treasure.  

Well done.

 

~ Mighty Ganesha

July 4th, 2008

 

 

 

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(Courtesy of  Regent Releasing)