Actors: Jeffery Combs
Director: Don Thacker
Format: Blu-ray, NTSC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Parade Deck Films
DVD Release Date: April 21, 2015
Run Time: 104 minutes
The term ‘cult film’ was coined for movies such as Motivational Growth, which defies classification or even explanation. It is original, bizarre, and occasionally overcomes the shortcomings of the amateur actors with a distinct visual style and directorial flare. Having watched the entire thing, I’m still not certain I have a grasp on everything that the filmmaker was trying to do, but even the failures of the film had enough creativity to keep me engaged enough to follow it to the end. Aspects of the storyline lull into predictable themes, but a series of disjointed sequences destroy this consistency in a way that makes the film weaker while simultaneously retaining viewers with its spontaneity.
The deceptively simplistic storyline of Motivational Growth involves a depressed and reclusive 30-something slob named Ian Folivor (Adrian DiGiovanni), a man whose deepest relationship is shared with his vintage television. When this television blows out on him, Ian can no longer find a reason to continue existing, and makes an attempt on his own life. Whether this suicide attempt is successful or not is certainly debatable, because Ian awakes to find reality has shifted away from normalcy. The first clue to this shift comes in the form of a talking pile of mold in the corner of Ian’s bathroom.
This talking bit of filth known only as The Mold (voiced by Jeffrey Combs of Re-Animator fame) begins to guide Ian on his life decisions, which initially seems to help him break out of the rut that led to a suicide attempt. This involves simple tasks such as cleaning his apartment and ceasing his reliance on television, but the intentions of The Mold become questionable when he urges Ian towards violence. This is also where the film becomes simultaneously unexpected and unclear of any thematic messages.
Although predictable in its narrative, there is something slightly satisfying about watching Ian get his life together. We begin with a depressed slob whose only relationships are with those unfortunate enough to have a reason to knock on his door, but the natural progression of the story allows for Ian to improve his social skills to the point of beginning a friendship with the girl in the apartment next to him. This is also where the film begins to lack any believability, because Leah (Danielle Doetsch) is the one who takes steps to find out more about Ian after catching him spying on her through the peephole in his door.
If it weren’t difficult enough to believe that an attractive young woman would seek out a relationship with the reclusive slob that has been spying on her, all reason to suspend disbelief is annihilated by the amateur performance from Doetsch. The acting is fairly poor all around, but this amateur performance feels disjointed from every other element of the movie in a way that is somehow more contrived than a pile of talking mold. None of the actors are particularly convincing, though this is clearly not the focus of storytelling for writer/director Don Thacker. Then again, I was still unclear of what exactly was the point of Thacker’s film, even having reached the ending. If the intention was to make a strange film, Thacker has achieved his goal; I’m just not convinced that it is a very good movie beyond the appeal of its quirkiness.
The DVD special features include a commentary track with actors Jeffrey Combs and Adrian DiGiovanni, along with Thacker. There is also a photo gallery and a trailer for the film. The one missed opportunity is the extras is some type of a featurette showing how the film’s visual effects were accomplished, especially since this is far more of an asset than the screenplay or any of the performances.
Entertainment Value: 3.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 4/10
Historical Significance: 1/10
Special Features: 5/10