Film Reviews

State of Modern Love – Film Review

The Blu-ray extras on IvansXTC (2000) feature the film’s co-writer and producer, Lisa Enos, heavily. A curious bonus feature, filmed and completed during the Covid-19 pandemic, has the filmmaker reminiscing about her time on the film, and holds a distinct feeling that she is not done with telling stories.

State of Modern Love is listed as a 2017 film on IMDB; however, a 2021 director’s cut is on the pathway to being released, and is evidence that Enos’ fiction not only has style and themes that feel distinctly her own but also highlights that she still wants to tell her truth in film form.

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To separate Enos’ State of Modern Love from the Bernard Rose directed IvansXTC is an arduous task. That alone highlights how much Enos’s DNA is embedded within the material of both. Vice addicted, self-destructive chaos demons are the protagonists of both movies. They inhabit worlds in which the bedlam is fuelled by their self-absorption, while also being distanced by those who could help them.

In State of Modern Love, Jake Hudson (Daniel Falicki) is a boozy, womanising playwright, who is closer to sealing the deal with another disappointing one-night stand than getting his bizarre screenplay off the ground. His work has never been the same since leaving his wife. Travelling back to his hometown from L.A. has Jake looking to reassess his life. If only he can get out of his casual sexual shenanigans.

There is a sense of time running out that flows through both IvansXTC and State of Modern Love. With Ivan, it is through the consumption excess, knowing that the end is tremendously nigh. In State, Jake’s wish to set things somewhat straight with his life and importantly his wife holds a niggling sense of dread to proceedings. This has Enos’ Jake explore love in a variety of forms. Through old friendships, past relationships and of course family.

An important line turns up early from Jake’s director friend which states that he has “No love in the room”: something that becomes greatly important later as a visual metaphor. Both Jake and Ivan are on a quest for inner contentment; something that Enos seems deeply compelled by in her creative work. State is mostly a comedy of errors in which Jake leaps from one chaotic moment to another while those who know him do their best to give him metaphorical slaps to the chops to get him to think straight.

The result of State is a series of misfortunate events which range from wickedly funny in their crassness to quietly heartening at times of pathos. It is a mixture of sad-sack horniness, comedy of cringe, and shades of the auto-biographical stand out in a cinematic world that has moved past the mumblecore dramas. One of the most surprising things along with this is just how blokey State manages to be.

The romantic and creative misgivings of the kind of white male Jake is, are perhaps not as expected in a world scrabbling for what they consider to be diverse. It is also fascinating to see it come from a female filmmaker at this current moment. But the balance is right. State never loses sight that Jake’s problems are down to him, and although the film’s end may have some audience members read the film from one perspective, it still manages to eschew a more typical resolution which could have easily been more eye-rollingly saccharine.

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From a filmmaking standpoint, despite the roughness of the film’s digital presentation, some stilted moments in certain scenes, and moments of cumbersome blocking and composition, Enos is still a director of confidence. Looking at how scenes are composed and cut, one wonders what State would feel like if some more spit and polish could have adhered to its performances and the patchier aspects of the narrative.

Enjoyment of State of Modern Love is sometimes hampered by moments of inconsistency, although while there are films that may look better, they are not as funny, or as honest. Indies as small as this do find it difficult to find promotion and find their audience. But suffice to say that after the film’s credits rolled, State of Modern Love found itself one small fan.

State of Modern Love is available from 15th May on ThrillFlix.

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