The Mould: The Mould knows, Jack. The Mould knows.
Ian Folivor is depressed. Not just depressed in the over exaggerated kind of way that we sometimes profess when our favorite TV show gets put on hiatus. No, Ian hasn’t left his apartment in over a year; he sleeps on the couch, letting food waste and garbage pile up around him as he sits glued to his cabinet style TV set for the majority of his day. He no longer sets alarms to be woken up, rarely bathes, and finds it a struggle to even lift himself up off the couch and make it to the bathroom. But on the particular day that we meet Ian, he has decided to kill himself via a toxic mixture in his bathtub. However, when he stands up on his counter to cover the exhaust, he slips and falls, hitting his head and passes out on the floor.
When Ian comes around, he notices that among the grime and dirt of his small and disgusting bathroom, a huge mould has been growing; and it has a face; and it talks, thanks to the voice work of Jeffrey Combs (RE-ANIMATOR). Unable to believe that he is still alive and that mould is actually talking to him, he and the mould eventually come to an understanding and devise “the plan”. The mould has something in mind for Ian; it will take a week, but if he chooses to follow it, the mould promises that it will be rewarding. So, Ian gives in to the mould’s request and begins to follow his instructions (drilling holes in his walls, having certain chemicals and compounds delivered instead of his regular grocery list, not answering the door, etc). But there is something else afoot in Ian’s small apartment. Talking to the mould is causing him to have hallucinations, questioning the very reality that he was fed up with from the beginning. As the week draws to an end, it starts to become clear that this motivational growth Ian has discovered in his bathroom may not have the best of intentions for him.
For about the first 20-30 minutes of the MOTIVATIONAL GROWTH, Ian (Adrian DiGiovanni) describes his current situation to us, talking directly to the audience as if it were a one man stage performance. Actually, the whole film has the feel of a play, the entirety of the film taking place in either Ian’s living room or the bathroom, the fourth wall removed. This set-up by Ian is the strongest part of the film; the description he gives of his depression is pretty uncomfortable due to its direct honesty. At the same time, it is very refreshing to see someone on the big screen describe something so painful and undeniably personal.
When the film starts to get deeper into the story, and the weird stuff begins to happen (yes, its weird and sometimes gross), it often feels like it is trying a little to hard to fill its running time. MOTIVATIONAL GROWTH begins to lag about an hour in and never really seems to pick itself up again until the final 5 minutes. Ian is lost in a world that is inhabited by watching too much TV, and he hallucinates himself as being a part of the programs. While the sequence is completely bizarre, it almost seems entirely unnecessary to the rest of the movie, but once it reaches the end it almost makes sense.
Still, the movie does have elements that speak to director Don Thacker’s unique vision. The opening title sequence and “chapter cards” take their cues from old 8-bit video games, and the animated graphics are also interesting. The music is certainly one of the stronger elements of the movie, and even though it may seem like an odd choice, the pounding rhythmic soundtrack is pretty stellar.
MOTIVATIONAL GROWTH is a bizarre little movie that loses its steam along fthe way, but DiGiovanni’s mostly solo performance keeps it going strong, if not a little long. The frank openness about depression, which sets a very dark tone for the movie, may be a bit too much of a downer for some, and the often incomprehensible happenings may seem a little too out of place for others. If the film even trimmed down a fraction of its running time, it would have perhaps been a solid piece of independent movie making. As it is though, MOTIVATIONAL GROWTH is relies too much on the expectation that audience wants it to be weird just for the sake of being weird.