PLEASE PUNISH ME by Chris Esper (2015)
There is a group of filmmakers in the Providence, Rhode Island, area that consistently puts out quality indie films. In a cooperative way, they take turns in the roles of writer, director, producer, and actors in their productions, of which I have been fortunate be able to review a fair number. The most recent release by this group is “Please Punish Me,” a comedy short directed by Chris Esper. Creusa Michaelazzo produced the film for Macremi Productions. The story is by Tom Paolino, the screenplay by Rich Camp.
The release of the trailer for this film (covered on this blog) happened in late March. The film itself was complete by mid-April. Chris Esper asked me to review it at that time and gave me access to a screener. Unfortunately, I was not able to post my review in a timely manner because of a family emergency that took me several hundred miles away from my home and base of operations and took up literally all of my time. Given that this debacle is over, I’m pleased to release my take on “Please Punish Me.”
PLEASE PUNISH ME — Plot Summary
In summary, the film follows an episode in the life of Scottie Lee (David Sackal), a young, wildly successful business man who is despondent and guilt-ridden because his life is nothing but good luck. Scottie feels guilty because he has not put much effort into his life, which has nevertheless given him everything while punishing those around him. Moreover, he hates his work; he would rather be drawing cartoons. When he gets a big promotion at work, he cannot handle it any longer. He confides in a co-worker, Tigs (Talli Clemons), who gives him the business card of the Punish Me Palace, a local BDSM establishment. Scottie decides to give it a try. He thinks he can pay for all the good things in his life by being punished. However, things do not turn out at all like he expects.
PLEASE PUNISH ME — Commentary
The cast of the film is practically an ensemble, appearing in many of the films produced by the Providence-based group. So it should not be surprising that they work very well together. The situational comedy of the first act, in which Scottie tries to cope with his promotion, is heightened by Sackal playing his character deadpan while the other cast members — particularly Bradley Rhodes, who plays his credulous, incompetent boss, Steinberg — allow themselves to get a little campy. In the second act, Scottie decides to go to the Punish Me Palace, which is a bit more serious in its stairwell exchange between Scottie and a weed-smoking Tigs. However, it is lightened by Steinberg’s entrance. The third act, at the Punish Me Palace, is both the funniest and the most serious. Mark Carter, as Crueger, the receptionist, provides an over-the-top introduction to the Place to Scottie. The comedy is enhanced by the entrance of dominatrix Do-Rey-Mi (Lorrie Bacon), who does good work in dialogue with Carter. The final sequences between Scottie and “the new girl,” Michelle (Joanna Donofrio) are both hilarious and heart-warming.
The overall good performance of the cast is enhanced greatly by the work of Esper and his crew. Production design for this film, done by Stephanie Castanos, is excellent. Mark Phillips’ cinematography makes good use of the light and camera angles available in the locations that are used. The editing by Felipe Jorge, particularly the opening sequence, creates a much higher production value for this film than would be expected from its extremely small budget. Although the sound quality varies (sometimes with too much echo when lines are being delivered), the original score (by Steven Lanning-Cafaro) for the film fits it well.
PLEASE PUNISH ME is premiering on June 14th at the Cable Car Cinema and Cafe. Tickets are $10.00, with part of the proceeds going to the Alzheimer’s Association. If you’ll be in or can get to the Providence area then, don’t miss the opportunity to see this latest Chris Esper production.