A Feast of Man
R0 - America - Indiepix
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (9th April 2020).
The Film

When life-of-the-party Gallagher (Laurence Bond), the son of a disgraced Wall Street billionaire, dies in a fiery crash, his faithful butler James (Zach Fleming) summons his heirs to the family's summer home in the "third world country" that is upstate New York for the weekend: junior partner Wolf Zabar Jr. (Chris Shields) is not only one of the heirs but has been sent by his father (Troma Video president Lloyd Kaufman) as executor of the will, along with his college dropout younger brother Dickie (Long Nights Short Mornings's Jesse Rudoy), hopeful celebrity chef Judy (Albert and Alice's Katey Parker), her extremely woke husband Ted (Chained for Life's Frank Mosley), and Gallagher's Belgian sexpot girlfriend Arletty (Marleigh Dunlap). From the start, there is resentment about Arletty's intimate knowledge of their dead friend and the ease with which she inhabits the country house full of their own youthful memories; especially since her response is not so much amiable as provocative. Wolf Jr. objects when James reveals that Gallagher recorded a video will and insists on going with the previous written one, but changes his mind quickly when Gallagher reveals on tape that he had managed to squirrel away four million dollars before the IRS froze his family's accounts, but none of them know how to react when he tells them that the money will be divided four ways amongst them if they participate in the religious ceremony of consuming his corpse. They are given forty-eight hours to decide – and the decision must be unanimous – with James telling them that Gallagher's corpse will be delivered fully cooked at the end of the weekend should they agree. Arletty is agreeable from the start, making vague references to the pagan religions she and Gallagher explored before his death. Dickie seems to be on the verge of agreeing, as much out of his ambiguous but intense closeness to Gallagher as his attraction to Arletty, while Judy is vehemently against it and Ted wants to call the police. Wolf Jr. stops Ted, but it seems to be out of his intense dislike of the man who he considers socially beneath them than whether he is weighing a million dollars against a taboo. As the week continues, the heirs are haunted by memories of their complex relationships with Gallagher, and Arletty seduces some of them to the cause; but are they motivated by love and remembrance of their old friend or the prospect of his money?

Playing a bit like a sub-Whit Stillman (Metropolitan) comedy, A Feast of Man is too clumsily executed to be funny, and only intermittently works as a farce. Characterization is so broad it is more like caricature, particularly with Ted's incredibly clichéd woke dialogue – which might have worked since his character's desire for a career in the nonprofit sector seems just as ruthlessly ambitious as the goals of the other characters – while performances vary wildly to the point that one wonders if director Caroline Golum was too hands-off in shaping them. Dunlap is most successful in this respect if only because her performance is at least consistent while Shields comes across awkwardly throughout the first third of the film, but one either becomes accustomed to his acting or he just blends in as the others become increasingly shrill. The attempts at sophisticated humor feel more imitative than naturalistic while the cruder jokes and sight gags seem more desperate than revealing of the characters' true natures. The final twist is quite obvious, and the end result although technically polished feels more like something tailored for film festivals to be enjoyed primarily by those in it as a vanity project.
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Video

Indiepix's single-layer, progressive, anamorphic encoding is up to the task with this cleanly-photographed, digital production with no distracting faults that one can notice with the naked eye.
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Audio

The sole audio option is a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track of a serviceable mix with clear dialogue, sedate sound design, and scoring. English Closed Captions are included.
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Extras

The only extras are the film's theatrical trailer (1:47) - which pretty much sets the tone more concisely than the film itself with faux-witty hyperbolic text like "Watch these assholes bite off more than they can chew" and "When people stop being polite and start getting meal" (sic?) - and the short "Modern Luxury" (1:47) which I am uncertain as to whether it is an actual Airbnb advertisement for a New York residence belonging to someone on the film or a parody of one (I suspect the former with those involved assuming that it may make them more money than distribution of the feature itself).
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Overall

Although technically polished, A Feast of Man feels more like something tailored for film festivals to be enjoyed primarily by those in it as a vanity project.

 


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