Proxy is a confronting, graphic and cynical look at the culture of celebrity with a superficial look at one form of more extreme fetishism (outside the realm of BDSM). It’s an ambitious effort from Zack Parker, however unfortunately it’s not as smart as it thinks it is and Parker fails to display the directorial chops required to pull off and justify some of its more confronting moments. Because of this, time and time again, I found Proxy to be a frustrating experience; it’s a film that constantly introduced interesting ideas and motifs and repeatedly failed to execute them successfully.
Proxy opens with the confronting slaughter of an unborn child via brick, performed by a veiled assailant in a red hoodie. In another context (see: better film) I would have been all over this: depraved, unexpected, and sickening. The problem with Proxy is it just isn’t a good enough film to justify such a hard-hitting and controversial opening. We are then forced to follow Esther (Alexia Rasmussen) as she deals with the aftermath of the loss of a child. In one of her support groups she meets, and becomes instantly attached to, Melanie (Alexa Havins), who claims to have lost her husband and child in a driving accident. After Melanie fails to answer her calls Esther tracks her down, finding that her child and husband are, in fact, alive and well. Discovering this, Esther decides to give Melanie the gift that she’s always wanted but didn’t know how to ask for.
This is around the midpoint of the film (from here there are numerous other twists and turns I won’t spoil), and it is at this point that we switch from Esther’s perspective to Melanie’s perspective. It’s a nice idea, and it’s a shame that it isn’t supported by a solid script or some amazing performances. Every aspect of Proxy, apart from the film’s almost professional aesthetic, ranges from a little to completely underwhelming, – Parker and his Director of Photography have done wonders with their budget, stretching every penny to make what I’m sure was probably a fairly modest amount of money look almost mid-sized and the colour grading only occasionally hints at it’s low-budget origins. Overall, it’s an ambitious project and it’s obvious he’s fairly convinced that his film is a work of genius – unfortunately there’s just too much going on at once and because of this everything comes crashing down. It doesn’t help that no element of the film (barring the cinematography and the odd, stand-out scene here or there) is refined enough to hold its own weight.
It’s worth noting that Proxy could be read as fairly homophobic (although few characters, regardless of their sexual orientation, come out of this with a particularly good wrap). Both lesbian characters are, without hyperbole, presented as hyper-crazy psychopaths, and represent two sides of the crazy coin. It’s a little disheartening and disparaging to see on screen. I understand that the film gains a few things out of the fact that these two characters are in a lesbian relationship and it is necessary to the plot but that didn’t stop it from leaving a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.
Honestly, I had a fairly negative reaction to the film. The only thing saving Proxy from falling into the Strongly Not Recommended category for me was the fact that there were a handful of genuinely great sequences (particularly the shotgun scene at the film’s midpoint), the project’s ambitious nature, the fact that on paper it had a decent enough concept backing it (the script itself isn’t too bad either), and the fact that it was (for the most part) a fairly visually striking effort. In the end though, Proxy was a very nothing experience – Parker lacked the skill to meaningfully pull off all of the (admittedly quite good) ideas at play here and didn’t flaunt level of the talent necessary to justify the use of such an arresting opening sequence. Other films (such as Natural Born Killers, Fight Club, and even A Horrible Way To Die) offer a far better commentary on the modern culture of celebrity and I’d strongly suggest checking them out before delving into the world of Proxy.
At the end of the day, my venomous response to this feature has a lot to do with the middle finger of poorly constructed filmmaking raised by the ending. It is a demonstration once and for all that Parker lacked the foresight to pull all of the disparate threads opened by the film together in a cohesive fashion. The thing I find upsetting is it was fairly clear that he thought he had tied everything together perfectly, and this delusion was far more offensive than anything else in Proxy could ever be. It betrays everybody who worked on this film, including Parker himself, and its a damn shame because pretty much everyone, including Parker, show flashes of brilliance. Proxy could have actually been something amazing if it was left to stew for another year or so – at the end of the day, it’s just another indie film that’s not as smart as it thinks it is.