A Mile in These Hooves
A Mile in These Hooves is a wonderful short film written and directed by James Brylowski. It is an absurd mockumentary in the style of Christopher Guest’s Best in Show that tells the story of two brothers who set out to walk the longest distance in a two person costume. The two-person costume is hilarious – they are dressed as a donkey that looks permanently drunk, swaying from side to side with a tongue poking out.
A Mile in These Hooves fits a lot into fifteen minutes. The editing is perfect, since not a minute is wasted. The opening is punchy – Tom (Jordan Gray) and Mark (Ned Petrie) are foster brothers. Mark was adopted by Tom’s family at a young age. His parents set out to set the record in their own two-person costume but died and asked Mark to carry on their legacy. Later on in the film, Mark accuses Tom of being a bad brother and Tom replies that he is a good brother, he has agreed to trek from Toronto to Venice Beach, California in a donkey costume for him.
The jokes in the film are well-executed and offbeat. There is a charming romantic subplot where Mark falls in love with a girl they meet at a party. Because he makes up the donkey’s rear-end, he kisses her through the donkey’s anus. From then on, much to the chagrin of Tom, Mark and his girlfriend Skype continuously from inside the donkey costume. Brylowski’s script consistently surprises and makes you laugh, and it is well-executed by Grey and Petrie who have excellent comic timing. When I later discovered that this is Brylowski’s first film, I was even more impressed.
A Mile in These Hooves also features a range of gorgeous landscape shots across the American wilderness. The juxtaposition of the plush donkey costume with the desert landscape is enough to make one laugh out loud. The film also offers quite a bit of physical humour – there is an excellent scene when Tom faints and Mark resolves to drag them both the last 190 kilometres. The upshot of this is that the donkey’s rear end has picked up its head with the tongue hanging out and is dragging it along the roads of California, across zebra crossings, towards the beach.
A Mile in These Hooves is such a playful, funny film. The notion of two people walking across America in a donkey costume is a quirky premise, but one which could have easily fallen flat. Instead, Brylowski has skilfully crafted a refreshing absurdist drama.
The International Byron Bay Film Festival featured a wide range of short films. Incidentally, two of these films were about people dying during sex: The Foot Job, directed by Brian Pracht and Early Checkout, directed by Jim Lounsbury. It is interesting to watch both films because The Foot Job is far better than Early Checkout and the contrast accentuates just how much can go wrong, or right, in so few minutes.
Early Checkout stars Byron Bay local actor Dustin Clare. It screened before the feature film Sunday, which also features Clare. Early Checkout is marketed as a black comedy about two mates who are staying over at a hotel. The mate played by Clare is stressed out because the woman he was having sex with last night (accidentally?) died. He wakes up his friend (played by Ian Meadows) and points out that yes, he did have sex with this woman while his friend was in the same room, anyway, the current issue is how they are going to dispose of the body before checkout.
The rest of Early Checkout is supposed to be funny but is not. They think of ways to dispose of the body that are not very funny. They try and put her in a fridge. They try and pretend she killed herself in a bath. At one point they make a joke because Clare’s character opens a beer and then Meadows’ character says, “You can’t do that.” he waits a second, then delivers the punch line, “Those cost 9 dollars.” This is about the extent of wit the film displays. It capitulates with the ‘dead’ woman falling from the ceiling and actually being awake.
Early Checkout uses a few interesting shots. There is a shot of the two mates faces as they lean over the bed looking at the dead body. There is the fact that the dead body is never really shown, such that it was a little ambiguous when she fell from the ceiling at the end whether or not she was the same woman. The film also opens with the hotel maid (a surprise cameo from Jackie Weaver) opening the hotel room and looking confused, then rewinding to when the action started. The film ends with this same opening shot, which does give it a slight sense of unity and closure. However, all in all, Early Checkout offers nothing special.
The Foot Job
Subject-matter aside, The Foot Job, directed and written by Brian Pracht, bears some striking similarities to Early Checkout. It too is a black comedy and it too starts with a scene that is supposed to intrigue the audience, then rewinds to show the story from the start, then ends with the initial scene. The Foot Job is a much cleverer and more subtle film. The acting is also much better than the annoying over-acting in Early Checkout.
Emma Jayne Appleyard stars as a foot masseuse who goes to a man’s house to give him a foot massage. In the opening scene we see her running from the house crying. She is wearing no make-up and the aesthetic of the film is quite grungy and stripped back. This scene, unlike the opening scene in Early Checkout, effectively arouses audience curiosity. We then see why she is so upset – we watch her enter the house of her customer (Jernard Burks) and give him a massage. This scene is done very well. The film’s title ‘foot job’ alludes to the colloquialism of a ‘hand job’ and the scene itself is set up as an allusion to sex. We see Appleyard’s character look at Burks’ character’s bare feet. She takes off her own shoes, to expose her feet. He lies down on the bed. She massages his feet and he groans and she flips him over and he groans more. As she brings him to climax, he has a heart attack and dies. Then we see the opening scene again, and it is apparent why she is so upset. We see her crying again, but this time it’s humorous because The Foot Job succeeds as a black comedy, while Early Checkout does not.