Reviews

Amber Benson & Adam Busch

USA, 2010

Credits

Review by Victoria Large

Posted on 16 May 2010

Source 35mm print

Categories The 2010 Independent Film Festival Boston

Drones is a low budget movie about aliens. But it’s probably not the kind of film you’re thinking of based on that description. Directed by Buffy the Vampire Slayer alums Amber Benson and Adam Busch (who were reportedly dubbed “AmBusch” on set), Drones is more reminiscent of Jonathan Parker’s Bartleby adaptation or an episode of The Office than a SyFy Channel original movie. The plot revolves around a generic corporate branch of something called Omnilink, and Brian, an Omnilink employee with a seemingly uncomplicated life. It just so happens that a few of Brian’s officemates are disguised aliens bent on controlling the Earth, so there’s a bit more at stake than the fallout from a bad board meeting or the potential humiliation of an office romance gone sour. Here is a world where aliens confide in copy machines and Powerpoint Presentations can take on cosmic significance, and there are enough big laughs to make it worth buying into.

Drones is light on special effects, but Benson and Busch create a heightened reality that’s just left-of-center, bolstered by the stylized, neo-screwball cadences of Ben Acker and Ben Blacker’s dialogue. The filmmakers also inject their intentionally drab setting with some well-chosen visual pop, including intricately decorated cubicles that accentuate the personalities of the characters. This might sound a bit precious, and to be honest, the material might have come across as entirely too smug in the wrong hands, but Drones acquits itself well. Jonathan M. Woodward makes for a funny and sympathetic Everyman as Brian (though he does occasionally seem to be channeling Bill Murray circa What About Bob?), and May star Angela Bettis is amusingly deadpan as Amy, Brian’s unearthly office crush. Best of all, Freaks and Geeks alums David “Gruber” Allen and Samm Levine make of the most of their roles as Brian’s bizarre co-workers.

It’s true that Drones takes on a soft target; this is far from the first time that someone has pointed up the absurdity of management buzzwords and strongly-worded memos. But considering how many of us spend, in the words of one character, “the best hours of the best days of the best years” of our lives in the midst of such absurdity, the jokes are worth repeating. It’s hard not to root for a film that can translate intergalactic drama into water cooler talk. Drones serves to confirm that while effects budgets may come and go, a touch of wit and imagination proves priceless.

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