Actors: Gabriella Wilde, Luke Grimes, Richard Dreyfuss, Thomas Dekker
Director: Martin Weisz
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Release Date: May 13, 2014
Run Time: 106 minutes
Even with regards to independent film, rarely is it ever a bad thing for a film to be too visually accomplished. I can think of very few instances when I have found the strength of a film’s visual flair and stylistic showcasing to be a detriment rather than an asset. Squatters is a film that offers a polished look from director Martin Weisz (Grimm Love, The Hills Have Eyes II), but it is wasted on an unfortunate script from actor-turned writer Justin Shilton. What starts as a compelling albeit farfetched premise turns into an exercise in indecision as the film attempts to fit in with as many genres as possible. The first half of the film drifts with no clear direction, leading into a bit of a gangster narrative which blends from Bonnie and Clyde to a completely different love story cliché.
The premise is simple, but it somehow manages to still feel unbelievable and convoluted by poor research and sloppy screenwriting. We join Kelly (Gabriella Wilde) and Jonas (Thomas Dekker) living on Venice Beach, which is sadly the most believable portion of the introduction, and are given no previous knowledge of their relationship with each other. When he leaves her to forage for things to steal, Jonas writes a note on Kelly’s forearm indicating some kind of established relationship, but then there is an awkward distance between them for the rest of the film. Kelly secretly pines for the son of the owner of a house that Jonas brings her to.
That’s right; the title is an accurate description of at least the first half of the film. Jonas overhears wealthy Pacific Palisades housewife (Nancy Travis) telling her house security codes to the maid before leaving on vacation with her husband (Richard Dreyfuss). Jonas rescues a drunken Kelly and somehow transports her limp body to this newly acquired safe haven, where very little happens between the two of them. The film drags as Jonas drives the cars in the garage and seeks a way to sell items in the house while Kelly watches old home movies and predictably falls in love with the son (Luke Grimes).
Just in case this wasn’t enough to amplify the dangers of the singular concept within the film, or in case another genre added in could save the screenwriter from not knowing what to do with the initial premise, there is also a violent cross-dressing criminal (Andrew Howard) who becomes involved when promised goods from the house Jonas and Kelly are squatting in. This provides a completely unnecessary slow-motion/still motion action shot in the film’s climax, which is not nearly as indulgent or unnecessary as the three done for the film’s sex scene, orchestrated with awkwardly staged implied nudity.
Entertainment Value: 6/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 4/10