Team Picture Review
As a film movement, mumblecore has a tendency to be fairly laidback, which doesn’t mean that the style or genre is inexpressive, it’s just that it matches the attitude and character of its filmmakers and their subjects. There are some films however that are so laid back that you wonder how the director could even summon up enough energy or enthusiasm to get it made. This would seem to be the case with Team Picture, since there is evidently a heavily autobiographical element to the film’s lead character, played by the writer/director Kentucker Audley himself.
Audley’s David is a bit of a slacker. Well, he’s not really a slacker – he has a job working in a sports store in Memphis, he has a girlfriend Jessica who is an artist and he’s applied to go to college. Oh, no, hold on – he didn’t actually get around to applying for college, his girlfriend has just walked out on him because of his general indifference to her moods and feelings, and he’s written a song called "I’m Gonna Quit My Job Tomorrow". So, ok – maybe David is a bit of a slacker after all...
Try and pin David down to just why he doesn’t seem to care much and it will not really reveal anything specific – he just wants to, like, find his own space to explore a few things. And essentially that’s what he does in Team Picture. It’s not an excuse to sit around, go out and party with his friend Eric (Timothy Morton) or spend time down at the lake. It’s about being open to new experiences and opportunities and maybe find time to put them into his songwriting. Like when the girl next door lets down her friend Sarah (Amanda Harris), David’s free to step in and take her on that trip to Chicago that she had been planning on. Who knows? It might be fun.
And it might indeed be fun for the viewer if they are willing to hang around with these characters for the short 62 minutes of the film, a running time that feels like exactly the right amount of time for a film that is surprisingly measured and precise within the limits of what it sets out to achieve. You’re not going to find any profound wisdom or insights in Team Picture, but its simple philosophy of taking time to find enjoyment is a sound one and it’s an honest sentiment that arises naturally out of the characters and one presumes, the filmmakers themselves. That philosophy extends out to the way the film is made, using natural situations and everyday familiar locations - not seeking to manufacture drama or heighten it through unusual camera angles, but using the camera instead as an impartial tool to observe and reflect.
That’s why, despite the perception that people may have of films associated with the mumblecore movement being inexpressive and inarticulate, there is a greater measure of truth expressed about real human behaviour than you’ll commonly find in films with clever, snappy scripts and dramatic plotlines. They may be small truths certainly, but that doesn’t make them any less valid. And in David’s case there is evidence that there is some personal growth, even if it’s not a major, defining moment of self-revelation. He might not know how to deal with his former girlfriend Jessica’s moods and not realise that ignoring them might not be the right thing to do (is there a right thing to do in such a situation? I certainly like to know…), but maybe he learns something small from that when he stops on his way out of the house on a later occasion and simply asks Eric if he is alright after his friend’s heart has just been broken. True, he has no more words of wisdom or consolation to offer Eric’s pondering on what he should do other than "I don’t know, man" – but it’s a truthful reaction, devoid of platitudes, and like I say, who knows what is the right thing to do in such a situation anyway?
If you can see the humour in that kind of moment, then Team Picture’s small scale ambitions, its surprising sensitivity and its delicate observations just might sit ok with you. If it doesn’t, well, maybe it’s not right for you or you just don’t like enjoyment, but like David, you’ll never know if you don’t find some space for yourself and explore a few more options.
Team Picture is released in the US by Benten Pictures. The DVD is slipcase packed, and contains a booklet with an introduction to the film by Nick Dawson. The film itself is presented on a dual-layer disc, is in NTSC format, and is not region encoded.
If there are any flaws perceived in the transfer of Team Picture, they are more than likely down to the conditions in which the film was shot, which in line with the philosophy of the genre, is naturalistically without artificial lighting. Inevitably then, the film looks its best in the open-air daylight scenes, but even interiors and low-lit situations are handled well here, the image never looking less than how it’s meant to look. Clarity and definition are good, the colouration is spot-on and there are no marks or flaws on the print. The transfer itself displays no issues with macroblocking, noise-reduction, filtering or edge-enhancement – it presents the film exactly the way you would expect it to look with nothing added, nothing taken away and no artificial flavours added. The film is presented in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio.
The basic Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track is fine, presenting the soundtrack well. Even with the limitations of the recording equipment (some of which is mentioned in the commentary track), dialogue is usually quite clear and audible throughout. A few words or phrases are inevitably lost here and there, but nothing essential. Again realism is the key here and in any ordinary conversation – sequences here in the film are evidently improvised - you’re not going to catch every word. The meaning however is not just in the words, and the intent is made clear in other ways. On the whole though, the sound is fine, and undoubtedly exactly how it’s intended.
It’s perhaps for similar reasons that there are no subtitles provided on this particular release since Benten Pictures do usually go to the trouble of providing optional captions/subtitles on their DVDs. It’s a bit like a band not including their lyrics with a CD, preferring the listener to work out their own meaning. Most viewers of the film will not need subtitles – the English dialogue being mostly fine and clear throughout – but it means that the DVD is not friendly for anyone who is hearing impaired.
Team Picture is not a film that benefits from a commentary track, and its filmmakers are not the kind of people to be open and chatty about themselves. Although it’s a bit of a struggle for them in the early scenes – all they can find to comment on are the flaws that now become apparent as they watch it – things warm up slightly once they get a few beers down. (A few loud beer burps into the microphone might however put some listeners off). With a few interjections from Timothy Morton, director Audley however talks about the intentions of the film, its evident emphasis on naturalism and they consider Southern fashions where the theme is definitely dressing down.
Ginger Sand (8:33)
Filmed as a kind of epilogue for the main film by mumblecore mainstay Joe Swanberg (LOL), we catch up with David and Eric in another city sometime after the events in Team Picture, the two guys finding that things don’t gel with their respective partners. The epilogue is 1.78:1, non-anamorphic, and the quality is good.
And He Just Comes Around And Dances With You (15:10)
A short film by Kentucker Audley (under the name Drugi Nehringer). Nick is getting worked up by the absence of his girlfriend who is out of town with friends, expressing his frustration in a couple of phone-calls with her where he questions her on her behaviour. A short intense film, it’s well performed and accurately captures certain male attitudes and behaviours. In black and white at a ratio of 1.33:1, the transfer here is also excellent.
Music Performances (16:00)
An open-mic performance seemingly at the coffee-shop location by Kentucker Audley on guitar, harmonica and vocals (in a Dylan-esque drawl) with banjo contributions from Timothy Morton, this might seem a little indulgent, but it actually fits in with the whole tone of the film and with what the filmmakers do. The songs have a folky arrangement where the repetition of phrases make-do for a chorus, but it’s a taste you could easily have acquired by the end of the set.
Deleted Scenes (9:29)
The five deleted scenes and a few outtakes have some funny moments, but are a little flat out of context. They are mostly scenes where Eric’s contribution is cut-back a little and there is some random Chicago footage, all of which will give you some idea of the kind of improvisation that went on.
Original Theatrical Trailer (3:29)
The original trailer for Team Picture is included here and it can also be viewed on the Benten Pictures website.
It would be a mistake to take the laidback and seemingly haphazard approach shown in Team Picture or its short running time as laziness or indifference. As a musician as well as a filmmaker, director Kentucker Audley finds a groove that suits his subject and a running time that’s about optimal for an album and uses that space to explore a specific attitude or philosophy towards life in an amiable and light-hearted manner. Likewise Benten’s DVD release ensures that you don’t feel short-changed, including a commentary, epilogue, short film, deleted scenes and even a music performance, none of which feel supplemental, but which contribute to the whole package that you’ll get if you buy into Kentucker Audley.