The Vast of Night

A few weeks ago, Deb and I watched The Vast of Night on Amazon Prime. It was OK. If you have Amazon Prime already, it is free. And since the movie is only ninety minutes long, its a modest way to be entertained.

The movie seems like a short film that has been expanded to feature length. I thought it probably would have worked better as a thirty or forty-five minute short film, when its deficiencies would have been easier to cover up. The primary deficiency is the acting by the two leads. One is a small town post-high school radio DJ, the other is a high school girl who works the late shift at the telephone switchboard. Neither is a good actor, but their characters, as written, are very thin. Both of the actors seem to be compensating for thin character dialog by speaking it as fast as possible. The character elements of the screenplay are also very underdeveloped. The switchboard operator seems to have a crush on the DJ, but the two lack any chemistry at all. The movie’s attempt at symbolizing foreplay between them, represented by his teaching her how to use a tape recorder and do interviews with the local townspeople, lacks any spark at all. Their romance seems completely perfunctory, to the point where I thought the movie probably would have worked better if either one of their characters was left out entirely. Since this movie is placed in the fifties, I kept thinking to myself, did the two of them have one too many Cokes or chocolate malts? The best acting is by two older and supporting characters. Once is an older African American who calls in to the radio show to discuss how he and other servicemen of color were ordered to work on a flying saucer after the war was over. Part of his monologue, where he mentions how soldiers who were African American were chosen specifically because of their race, since white people would never believe their stories, was affecting. The other supporting actor who does well is the elderly lady who discusses how her son was taken from her when he was nine, and how she’d like to see the flying saucer one more time in the hope that she’s see her son again. In another world, those two characters would have been the leads, and the twerpy youngsters would have been left our entirely. Oh well. The director is obviously a fan of Steven Spielberg, where the last ten minutes of the movie is essentially an ode to Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The director also emulates Stanley Kubrick in several sequences, particularly the beginning, where an uninterrupted tracking shot follows the two leads in, around and outside the high school gym. The director then puts the steadycam into fifth gear when he takes us on a high-speed tour of the town’s various locations. In all, the movie is entertaining enough at ninety minutes. It would have been annoying if it had been any longer. Moderately recommended.

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