James Cullen Bressack's To Jennifer claims it is the story of a guy, Joey, who is convinced his girlfriend is cheating on him and so plans to travel to her home and catch her in the act, all the while making a video about his journey and how much she's hurt him. On the surface the film appears to simply be about Joey, played by the excellent Chuck Pappas, being hampered continually in this attempt by his two inane and annoying, party friends Steven and Martin, played by the director himself, James Bressack and, Bressack regular, Jody Barton respectively. The whole thing is shot on an iPhone 5.
Now, even in the first few minutes we can tell that maybe Joey is not all he appears and his slowly building tense energy and the occasional freak out hints at brewing psycho tendencies, that and the fact that you hope the film is leading somewhere.
Your enjoyment of To Jennifer will depend on three things,
1) if you can put up with his two, selfish, vulgar, stoner, party friends
2) if you can put up with constant hand held shaking and moving of the camera
3) if you care enough to find out what's going on that you can put up with the first 2 points.
What I can say is that I usually loathe found footage/handheld camera films and characters like Steven and Martin would, normally, be enough to make me switch off but with To Jennifer the writing is good enough, the performances believable and the storyline compelling that I pressed on. I'm glad I did too but more on that later.
Just to clarify something, when I say the characters are annoying that is not a slight against the actors portraying them, quite the opposite, I presume that they are meant to be annoying and James and Jody do a grand job of portraying this. In fact Jody Barton even manages to give the pot smoking, hard drinking, bizarre prostitute hiring annoyance that is Martin a sort of pathetic tragedy which really sells the character perfectly. This film does everything to help make us side with Joey, despite the fact we suspect, deep down, the man's a little unhinged. His friends are so teeth gratingly, selfishly obstructive to Joey's goal that you don't blame him for losing his temper occasionally. This was not a Blair Witch Project situation where everyone is a selfish idiot to no end and with no reason, this is not only a strong attempt to present realistic characters but also ones that serve the overall story.
Although the writing is good, one thing that was unclear was why Joey and Steven took a flight somewhere and then when they got there still had to drive a long way to Jennifer's house. For the first half of the film that confused me maybe more than it should, as I never fully understood where they were or what they were meant to be doing.
I am not going to spoil a thing but, if it encourages you to watch the film all the way through and put up with the, sometimes, almost unbearably shaky camera work and a road strip story line that seems, frustratingly, to constantly be deviating from the plot, please know that this film, quite out of nowhere, manages to pull the same trick that The Sixth Sense did. That's not to say that Joey turns out to be a ghost but I mean to say, that when you're done with the film and you run it back through your mind, you see just how clever the script was to hide its ultimate reveal. It's a great trick and means you definitely look back on the film again in a new light.
It's not so much an enjoyable experience watching the film the first time but, once it ends you realise, it's a wonderful exercise in proving that, at the end of the day, what you need is confidence in your plot, a decent script and a director who knows how to scatter the clues seamlessly throughout the film without ringing any bells the first time round. Your film can be made on an iPhone and filled with characters you might not want to spend 5 minutes with in an elevator, let alone 85mins in a car/hotel/bedroom etc. but be clever, tell a good story and allow tension to build and it's a wholly worthwhile endeavour and gets my respect. The performances were not bad either.
Prolific indie scream queen Jessica Cameron plays the titular Jennifer and, although she doesn't have an abundance of screen time, she does a good job in an emotionally charged climax.
Check it out!