Thursday, 24 April 2014

In Your Eyes and on your internets:
Joss Whedon's missed opportunity

Joss Whedon recently took forty precious seconds out from filming Avengers: Age Of Ultron to record an introduction to one of his smaller projects, "metaphysical romance" In Your Eyes, for the Tribeca Film Festival. At the same time that the film premiered in New York, he announced, internet boffins were opening its e-cage and releasing it into the digital wild via Vimeo, allowing any old numpty to watch it for the princely sum of five "bucks" (just under three of the Queen's pounds).

Online film distribution is hardly new but it's yet to be fully embraced by Hollywood, so when a brand new Joss Whedon project pops up for you to watch immediately without even having to put your pants on, it naturally attracts attention. It's worth noting, however, that although His Jossness wrote and exec-produced In Your Eyes, it was actually directed by Brin Hill (me neither); from the SEO-friendly headlines the film has garnered you'd be forgiven for thinking it's another Much Ado About Nothingesque side project from the genial ginger genius.

While Whedon is to be commended for dipping his hairy toes into the digital water, you have to wonder if it's because without a headline-grabbing release, nobody would have batted an eyelid at In Your Eyes in the slightest. It's not that it's a bad film at all; it's a perfectly adequate, textbook romance with a supernatural twist, the script for which Whedon probably knocked out in less time than it took him to record its introduction. It's just that it's a little too bland to add much fuel to any kind of revolution in the way we consume films.
Whedon's script sees the achingly elfin Zoe Kazan, all doe-eyes and voluminous fringe, embarking on an unlikely affair with Cloverfield scruff Michael Stahl-David via the medium of unexplained telepathy: they can mysteriously hear each other, see what each other sees and feel each others' feelings despite never having met and being thousands of miles apart. He's an ex-con from the wrong side of the New Mexico tracks, she's the wealthy but unhappy wife of a prominent New Hampshire surgeon whom Whedon probably struggled not to call Dr. Douchebag. The characters are broader than a barn door plus all the barn walls laid end to end, and the plot less challenging than a battle of wits against said barn, but the parapsychological pen-pal quirk is just about enough to keep you watching.

It's occasionally eye-screwingly cringey (a spot of psychic nookie belongs in the movie equivalent of the Bad Sex In Fiction awards), but Kazan and Stahl-David are likeable enough to overcome the hurdles of playing cut-out characters in what is a predictable but - it must be said - almost flawless example of Screenwriting 101. Brin Hill's direction is workmanlike, but he's not the star here - if indeed he even exists and isn't one of Joss Whedon's pseudonyms.

So what we have is something of a curio: a script by a bona fide legend which is technically exemplary but disappointingly blunting-edge, released via a strategy that would have earned it far more column inches if only it had been, y'know, really good. In Your Eyes is destined to become, at most, a footnote in the Online Film Distribution history books, when its provenance suggests it should have been so much more. Let's see Marvel throw Avengers: Age Of Ultron onto the internet on the day it lands in cinemas; then we'll have something to talk about.


  1. Let me assure you, Brin Hill exists - I met him after the premiere of his previous feature. It was also really bad.