Phil Burke and Michele Remsen in Toss It as Finn and Emily, miserable at Finn’s brother’s wedding.
This film is publicized by Bunker 15 Films (www.bunker15films.com) . Bunker 15 helps connect indie films to entertainment journalists and critics in order to provide said films with press, something that can be hard to receive when you are a small film crew.
Director/Producer: Michele Ramsen
Written by: Michele Ramsen
Starring: Michele Remsen, Phil Burke, Blair Ross, Allison Frasca, Jenny Zerke, Stephen Bogardus, Eric Goss, Malachy McCourt
Synopsis (Bunker 15): Toss It opens with Emily [Remsen] and Finn [Burke], classic prototypes – shrewd wary woman and charming noncommittal guy – the last two bitter singles at a wedding, witty bantering with all signs pointing toward the expected outcome. Then everything gets tossed. And gets real.
Toss It feels like the Before Sunrise film series inspires it because of its focus on cerebral, witty conversations about love and life. You can even note the Before Sunrise influence in the more extended version of the synopsis which reads:
Emily thinks she knows everything and will teach everyone. Adele runs a carefully crafted world of which she is in full control. Natalie wants to be Adele, vehemently following a traditional path. Marie questions everything, chasing down every belief even if they change weekly. These disparate women, forced together by the traditionally happiest of circumstances, struggle to retain their roles when their world shifts. Tossing expectations and deconstructing genres as the women and their men battle for firmly-held stakes, Toss It reveals its real relationship skirmishes are among its women.
Emily questions what Finn and she are doing when a curve ball hits and everyone is suddenly very awake – and things get very interesting. Adele did everything by the book, got the American Dream, then begrudgingly examines her choices – and makes a very unexpected decision. Natalie is the perfect student: picks the right guy, the right family, the right dress…then why so much recreational weed? Vehement about being perfect, Natalie has a very fireworks-level reckoning. Marie triggers little explosions in her quest for truth but, in the end, may be the wisest of the lot. Different as they are, like many women, they’re fixers — and women, by and large, are the main nurturers of a family, which is the basic-unit of civilization – so women are in essence the people who shape the world. Which begs the question: then why is it so messed up? And who is to blame? Toss It doesn’t let anyone off the hook.
I understand what Toss It is trying to do. But I feel like the film is working too hard to be witty and meaningful instead of focusing on the main issue: two people trying to build a relationship.
Many essential plot points are left out, such as how Emily and Finn know each other. Supposedly, they have been longtime friends who have flirted with each other throughout their friendship. Still, we don’t ever get a complete understanding of how this friendship started or makes any sense–all we see is Finn trying to get Emily in bed with him.
There is more focus on being witty and intellectual in the script than there is in properly building up characterization, leaving the characters feeling more like vehicles for the screenwriter’s epiphanies and musings on life than actual character development. The lack of strong character motivation makes the characters feel flat and unengaging, despite their entire purpose being for us to engage with their struggles surrounding love.
Despite the wittiness being aggressive, the film’s strongest point–and most robust evidence of potential–is in the intelligence that lies behind the film. As the screenwriter and lead actress Michele Remsen writes in her director’s statement: “Life is often defined by big events, but it’s really in the back hallways that the real-deal goes down. So I peeled back the curtain on cornerstones of Western Civilization to try to figure out a few characters, and inadvertently stumbled onto things I didn’t know.”
Toss It is trying to tackle some big concepts, the biggest of all being the systems intrinsic to our culture. It’s a film that wants its audience to ponder the social constructs behind what we call “love” and “relationships.” That’s a worthy goal, and others resonated with this film since Remsen won a directorial award by the New York Women In Film & Television.
However, I wish, though, that there was less “telling” and more “showing.” I like being allowed to think for myself in a film, and I feel like Toss It‘s focus on outlining its concepts didn’t allow me to invest myself in the storyline fully and the meta-topics it was presenting. To me, though, this is a smaller fix than it sounds; some tweaks to allow the audience to feel like these characters are more relatable is all the film needs.
One of the reasons I wanted to watch Toss It is because it described itself as an “anti-romantic-comedy,” and as I’ve written before, romantic comedies, with all of their cliches, aren’t always my cup of tea. I was intrigued to see a film taking the romantic comedy head-on. If we speak in modern aesthetics, Toss It is the film for the Dark Academia-type of person, a person who is all about Dead Poets Society, Before Sunrise, and other films that ponder the nature of life. Similar to those films, especially Before Sunrise, the focus in Toss It is on philosophy more so than characterization. But if you’re if you like watching analytical movies, then Toss It is for you.