Review by James Lindorf
“Tape” is the story of two actresses, one new to the entertainment world and one that has experienced the good and bad sides of the industry. Pearl is an aspiring actress rushing from one audition to the next, hoping to find the role that could be her big break or a commercial that will pay the rent. She didn’t get the latest job, but the casting director wants her to join his management firm as an up and comer if she can pass her screen test. Rosa Has been in Pearl’s exact shoes, and she is still dealing with what that experience has done to her. “Tape” was written and directed by Deborah Kampmeier based on a story by her friend and the film’s costar Annarosa Mudd. “Tape” tackles the #MeToo profoundly and intimately and stars Isabelle Fuhrman (The Hunger Games) as Pearl and Tarek Bishara (The Tale) as Lux.
The film was scheduled to open in New York before the Covid-19 outbreak resulted in the city’s theaters being shut down. Instead, Together Films and producers Kampmeier, Mudd, and Veronica Nickel came up with a unique distribution strategy. “Tape” will screen online at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 26th, followed by screenings at the same time every evening through April 9th, to replicate the theater experience as best they can. Each screening will be followed by an online panel discussion about what it’s like to be a young actress with the director and special guests.
“Tape” has a remarkable story to tell about the dangers young and impressionable women face when pursuing an acting career. While forceful rape happens, the most dangerous men may be the ones that pretend to be friends and mentors to coerce women into uncomfortable situations. Harvey Weinstein has negatively impacted dozens, if not hundreds, of actresses over his long career. That is precisely the kind of predator that used Rosa and now has his sights set on Pearl. A vital message can only take you so far, unfortunately.
Many of Kampmeier’s decisions actively distract from the telling of her friend’s story. Opening the film with a nearly incomprehensible monologue from Mudd is just the beginning of the problems. Rosa is a mostly mute stalker, not only following Lux but Pearl as well, and a large portion of the cinematography is from her point-of-view. While that idea in of itself isn’t harmful to the film, the decision to treat the cinematography like it was captured by an amateur using spy equipment was. Add in the fact the CGI addition of her footage on to an iPad was subpar and never believable.
While the look of the film is a struggle the dialogue between Lux and Pearl feels authentic and is well delivered. The real standout is he performance of Isabelle Fuhrman as the vulnerable but determined Pearl. There is not a moment where you don’t believe in her as Pearl or root for her to achieve her dream. From joyous outbursts, tear-filled talks with her mom, binging and purging, to her decision whether or not to take Lux’s offer of help Fuhrman nails it all and deserves to be recognized for her performance.
“Tape” is not a very good movie but should be considered an essential watch for anyone that plans to pursue a career in acting. Or for anyone who wants to know what their friends, family, or partners may be facing. The pressures to be the perfect physical specimen combined with watching out for wolves, and wolves in sheep’s clothing is a stressful and exhausting process that lead people to make compromising decisions. “Tape” may be able to help others prepare for this new world and teach them how to avoid predators like Lux.
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