What Fun We Were Having: 4 Stories About Date Rape (2011)



What Fun We Were Having:  4 Stories About Date RapeStarring Joe Swanberg, A.J. Bowen, Lane Hughes, Amanda Crawford, Jasper Lee

Directed by Adam Wingard


The lo-fi film movement known as Mumblecore refers to movies with a particular slacker bent that reek of patchouli and pot. Utilizing long, dreamy, out-of-focus shots zoning in on shoelaces or nothing in particular, or improvised semi-inaudible mumbled dialogue, these movies invoke the sensation of blinking through a thick cloud of bong smoke. Adam Wingard – who also directed Pop Skull and A Horrible Way to Die, both playing at Fantasia this year – concocts his own subgenre by blending Mumblecore and horror into Mumblegore, which, like weed soaked in Rohypnol and paint thinner, injects a delirious fumbling paranoia to the usual sleepiness of the genre.

In 4 Stories About Date Rape – Wingard’s new anthology film containing four interweaving stories – these stylistic affectations, which might feel self-indulgent in another context, inject a fresh dose of naturalism to the portrayal of rape, often approached in a glossy, fetishistic manner in other movies, played either for sensationalized thrills or easy sentiment.

Wingard divides his four segments into holidays: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine’s Day, which all look eerily similar using the same strings of holiday lights as decorating, suggesting stasis despite the passage of time.

In the first story, Hot Boys, an airheaded twee girl named Abby (Amanda Crawford) delights in playing doll with her effeminate boyfriend, Jared (Jasper Lee), whom she dresses up in women’s clothing and uses as a blank slate to project her fantasies onto. Meanwhile, Jared befriends a man named James in a park, and we discover he has some unfulfilled fantasies of his own.

Fantasia 2011 Review

In The Sleep Creep a young woman regularly wakes up with dark bruises on her arm after suffering from disturbing dreams. She tells a friend she’s afraid her house is haunted and asks her to spend the night hiding secretly in her closet, watching to see what happens. This segment turns into a horrific voyeuristic scenario with a twist.

The Meat Man introduces us to a meat salesman who uses his door-to-door vocation and skills as a hypnotist to gain access to women and control their minds. His preference for mind wiped, pliant women in a hypnotic daze eventually backfires, however, reversing the usual power dynamic in a brutal finale.

In the final story, Silver Bullets, a dishwasher reluctantly agrees to babysit his roommate’s little sister. They end up wandering around town, drinking and bonding over the failures and dead ends in their lives, while growing increasingly inebriated. Later in the night while drunkenly philosophizing, he concludes that “being nice is bullshit” and that no one thinks it’s interesting. “Girls like assholes, guys like competition”, he says. He’s tried so hard to be nice and realizes it’s boring. These two characters both struck me as very real and charming, and the subtle creepiness of this segment and shifts in their dynamic seemed to underpin the emotional themes of each story.

By shifting the focus away from the violent, physical aspects of rape, Wingard breathes shades of ambiguity into his characters while saying something very deep about the nature of intimacy, treading into deeper, darker territory than the usual predator and victim clichés. While clear acts of rape are suggested in each story, there are also more ambiguous emotional undercurrents charting complex and shifting power dynamics, suggesting that the potential for “rape” exists in every human interaction. The tendency to be blinded by our own desires, projections, and fantasies is, after all, something that many of us can relate to in our own fumbling search for connection.

4 1/2 out of 5

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