Written and directed by Don Tjernagel, Flirts (2022) is a dramedy feature that stars Shawn Mcaninch, Rebecca Lee McCartney and Clint Boevers.
Rebecca Lee McCartney plays Rebecca Romero, a gentlemen’s club owner whose business is under threat by local parental groups and conservatives. With opposing forces undertaking a sustained campaign to prevent the strip club from operating in the area where families live and children play, Rebecca is forced to take help from local politicians to keep her business afloat. However, she will soon realise that taking the politicians onboard is a task harder than running the club itself as the politicians start to bare their teeth for all sorts of favours. Between managing the dancers and finding legislative support for her establishment, Rebecca will need to face a myriad of challenges if she is to save her club.
Flirts (2022) is a very different kind of film than what audiences are used to. Yes, there is a central narrative populated by characters that have arcs and stories and yes, there is an end goal to which the central character works towards. However, between the central story are titbits of the 90s that make the whole experience that much more exciting. From television commercials to faux news interviews, the film feels as much like an experience as it does like a story. This also puts a unique visual twist on the story, making it feel different than almost everything else.
However, this unconventional approach is not without its demerits. There are several subplots peppered throughout the film. Almost all of these ends up working such as the transgression of the mayor with the prostitutes while some do not, such as the child trying to sneak in to the club. In addition, the banter between the dancers and between the bartenders also works but at times, it feels that it becomes too much and some of it could have been left on the cutting room floor. On the other hand, the direction by Don Tjernagel ensures that these subplots do not derail the primary narrative and the story remains focused. Working from his own script, Tjernagel tries to capture chaos in a bottle and mostly succeeds, delivering a zany, crazy movie about a gentlemen’s club trying to save itself from annihilation.
In the acting department, the actors are great and incorporate the nuances of their various characters really well. Rebecca Lee McCartney as Rebecca Romero is perfect as she embodies the stressful life of a club owner in an authentic manner and her micromanaging every single aspect of the establishment in the face of an impending disaster meshes perfectly with how her character would behave in a real-life situation. The actors playing the politicians are also memorable as they effortlessly give off the sleazy vibe that comes with the profession. Every character is pivotal to this crazy story and kudos to Tjernagel for juggling this group flawlessly to recreate his vision.
From a technical viewpoint, all aspects seem to be working well. As noted before, the film is a visual blast; it uses a variety of mediums to convey the story effectively. The cinematography by Clint Boevers captures the zany energy of the story and the sound mixing and sound editing also help the director realise his vision in this regard. In addition, the choice of music handpicked for the film coupled with the original score elevates the entire production.
All things considered; the greatest strength of the film lies in its satire. The film makes fun of everyone from politicians to local Church leaders and from the dancers themselves to the neighbourhood Karens that have a problem with everything. The politicians are depicted as scrummy tools, the club security as clueless buffoons and the club owners cognizant of the fact that they are spreading indecency in the family-oriented neighbourhood. Therefore, the story not only illustrates the hypocrisy of everyone in society, but it also presents this hypocrisy in a humorous way as well. The film’s message seems to be clear; every one of us is a hypocrite in some way so let us put aside our differences and live together without prejudice.
Part satire and part dramedy, Flirts (2022) is different and unique enough to stand on its own two feet. It is unlike most films out there and that is probably a good thing. The way the film is structured coupled with its 90s vibe and dry humour work very well in the context of the narrative. Don Tjernagel has therefore created a one-of-a-kind film, one that is self-serious and not-so-serious in equal measure, to approach the controversial subject matter depicted. It is, in many ways, a zeitgeist of modern America; rudderless, chaotic but chugging along at its own pace to a destination very few of us seem to be aware of. We are just along for the ride and currently, the ride seems to be witty, fun and chaotic.
In a microcosm, River Road is an intriguing film that successfully manages to shake off its low budget vibes. The actors are great and so are the performances and the story works well as a mish mash of the romance and crime genres. With a surprising twist, an honest analysis of teen issues and good acting, River Road coasts by as a solid, low stakes film that punches way above its weight class.