HULLY GULLY, a film by director Pablo D’Stair, takes a look at a normal, everyday couple and the examines their relationship. The representation of a modern couple is pretty common, but with D’Stair’s style, it comes out different than the run of the mill films that are commonplace.
The camera shots are entirely stationary, which differs greatly from the norm. It provides the feeling that you’re looking at a picture frame where the subjects move but the background doesn’t. Or like security cameras, but the other explanation feels more eloquent. While having camera movement would have been a welcome addition, the differing camera shots between scenes might be enough to entice the viewer to keep watching. There is a nice usage of high angle, low angle and other, more unique shots. An issue one might have is the use of overexposed shots. While they seem intentional, having a light in the background overexposing the shot can be easily overdone and ruin a perfectly good scene. If this was intentional, it would have been nice if the film had less scenes with it. If it was unintentional, then moving the lights or shooting later, or earlier in the day might have been a good option. D’Stair used relatively cheap camera equipment, which in this situation worked out fine. While the shots are not as crisp as some films, the tone and feeling come through in the shots, which is the most important thing visually.
The sound for the most part was good, which is surprising since D’Stair used a cheap external recording device and microphone. Sound is very important, arguably the most important aspect of a film and using cheap equipment for it can be a risk, but it paid off here. The biggest issue is that the music, which is wonderful, sometimes overpowers the dialogue, making it difficult to hear what people are saying. That in itself might have been due to the cheap equipment or a mistake in post, either way, D’Stair is lucky that it didn’t occur in every scene. I have to say that the music was the best part of the whole film. It’s a big part of the film and opens and closes every scene, but at times, when the film slows down more than usual, it becomes one of the only reasons to trek onward.
It’s hard to say whether or not the writing of this film was good. Sure, the dialogue is very casual and realistic, but the lack of real action or a noticeable climax can be a hindrance. It’s a common trait of an art film, but one of the few traits I sometimes have a hard time wrapping my head around. The strangest thing is the amount of smoking in this film, every scene has pretty much every character smoking. This isn’t a negative or a positive, just an observation. The smoking helped make the film feel like it was from a time different than the one we’re in. While films nowadays still have smoking characters, it’s not in the same vein as the characters of before. In classic, older films, smoking is the norm, pretty much characters that didn’t smoke were an outlier. So now, it feels strange to see so many characters smoking in a film. The smoking works really well at some points in that it gives the actors something to do, preventing the character from awkwardly standing there delivering lines.
The performances in the film are hit and miss or hot and cold. Carlyle Edwards and Helen Bonaparte play the leads and both give decent performances. Edwards is often times hit and miss, offering a strong performance in some instances, while weak in others. His biggest strength came in his actions, which came off as casual and added to the realism of the scenes. Helen Bonaparte also gave a good performance that was subject to the same lapses as Edwards. Their scenes together, which are most of the film’s scenes, display the best parts of their acting chops. Their chemistry is strong and is what makes both the relationship and film believable. Romances rely heavily on if the viewer can believe that the couple is attracted to one another, and the performances they give made me believe that was the case. The supporting actors all played a minimal role in the film, serving as a sort of plot mover. Maybe the biggest problem was that many of the lines, while well written, were spoken with little conviction or feeling. Some better blocking for the scenes might have led to a better overall performance from the actors, or some camera movement or cuts might have helped with keeping the viewer invested into the scene and focusing less on the performance and nit-picking it to find all the negatives.
Consensus: The film has a lot of positives going for it and D’Stair seems to have built a unique style that can attract some viewers and dissuade others. With great music, and some solid performances, the film finds itself bogged down by a loose story and lapses in some of the performances. Feeling more like a European art film or a 90s experimental, Hully Gully might be a good watch for some and the bane of film-making for others. There were points while watching it that I couldn’t stand it, the stationary camera got tiresome, the performances dropped in quality, but the music kept me going. Then the scene would change, or improve, and I would go back to liking it, the performances got stronger, the music got even better and I found myself happy to be watching it. So overall I did like this movie. I hate that it had enough issues to make me feel more middle of the road about it, but each film is a stepping stone to the next, and D’Stair can easily improve on the problems he faced and the viewer potentially faced and make an even better film next.
Fun Fact: Carlyle Edwards and Helen Bonaparte are actually pseudonyms for the director, Pablo D’Stair, and his wife. Surprise!
You can watch the film here.