Cori Tory Berner (Afterglow (Short), NCIS: Los Angeles) dreams of becoming an actress, but before her dream can come true she practices her acting by working at Total Performance, a company that allows people to come and have a (verbal) fight with one of their employees so that they can let off some steam or practice their arguments for the real fight.
But after Cori goes on a seemingly smooth date with a man named Tim, Steven Conroy (Occupy Elm Street (Short), Misplaced (Short)) and gets a chance to audition in person for a role she really wants, her job at Total Performance and her personal life start colliding.
What made this short film catch my eye in the first place was the titular company, that reminded me of actual, real-life companies providing services of fake companionship or even the service to “rent” someone to get yelled at instead of you for something you committed (yes, those are real).
This is a fascinating topic, and one that could allow not only for an exploration of human relationships, like the blurring between acting a part and being entirely honest, but also could even turn into a dystopian-esque scenario where this service alters society at large.
Unfortunately, Total Performance doesn’t provide much to sink our teeth into, and only very lightly touches on the themes mentioned above.
Cori does blur the line between her job and her personal life, but it’s not a compelling enough scenario to make us care or think. Instead, I finished the short film feeling like something was missing, like I just watched a slice of someone’s life without any real meaning behind it.
The short film is well-shot, but mixes editing style and camera movements associated with comedy while also becoming a full-on drama at times, never letting the viewer truly know where the film stands.
Similarly, the soundtrack is extremely jarring. For example, there’s a short scene near the beginning of the short film where the music changes tone every five seconds to match exactly what the characters are feeling: when Cori stops speaking and seems to be serious, the music becomes dramatic, until it shifts into a comedic tone once she tells a joke right after, and it changes again when she does something else, and again and again in a span of a few minutes, like an unfitting patchwork of short melodies taking over the scene in a way that almost becomes absurdly comical.
Despite a very original and interesting premise, as well as very good actors, Total Performance is an underwhelming short film that doesn’t seem to really find its footing.