DENY EVERYTHING: A Somewhat Enjoyable But Flawed Comedy
Other than strong performances, Deny Everything is mostly unsuccessful, due to an uneven story-line, poor camerawork, and jokes that fall flat.
Making a good comedy is not an easy task, as the director needs so many elements of the film to fall into place to make it successful: the dialogue has to be witty, the performances have to be convincing, the camerawork needs to compliment both the screenplay along with the actors, and the timing has to be spot on. In these respects, Deny Everything is very close to being a good comedy; it just doesn’t quite reach the heights it so clearly aspires to.
The film opens with Jeff (Dominic Leeder) dragging a dead body through a park; how he got into this situation we are unsure but what is made clear is that he needs to get rid of the body, fast. This leads him to get in contact with his “best friend” Frank (Patrick Knowles), who had previous drunkenly promised to always help Jeff out, no questions asked. Frank reluctantly agrees to help Jeff, and the two head out to dump the body. Along the way, they manage to make enemies with a mad Irishman named Ashby (Laurence Kennedy), and recruit their slightly psychopathic friend Richie (Spencer Burrows).
Uneven and untrimmed
With the setup being as wacky and absurdist as it is, I was surprised at how little I actually laughed in Deny Everything. The screenplay, written by director Michael Eden, feels unpolished and uneven, with some jokes landing while others fall painfully flat. While some jokes feel well-executed and polished (Frank’s ridiculous hat and Richie framing himself are gut-bustlingly funny), others feel like Adam Sandler improv sessions, with jokes far outstaying their welcome. One joke with the pair’s idiotic friend Richie goes on for so long that it eventually becomes painful to watch. The script desperately needed editing down.
Despite the uneven screenplay, the actors all do a respectable job in their roles, with Patrick Knowles being a particular standout as the irate Frank. Knowles’ constant contempt for his useless friends is a joy to watch, and his frequent outbursts of pure anger can be hilarious. Dominic Leeder does a great job as the somewhat useless Jeff, and Spencer Burrows is excellent as the psychopathic Richie, whose somewhat insane tendencies lead to some of the film’s best comedic moments.
Although the characters are mostly well acted, they have no development whatsoever. None of them have anything even closely resembling an ark. This lack of development makes it hard to get invested in any of the characters, making it difficult to even care if they get caught or not.
Pale as a corpse
With the uneven screenplay, the film needed strong cinematography and inventive camerawork; sadly cinematographer Max Williams decided to shoot the film in an incredibly bland way. Aside from some occasional strong framing, the camerawork is as dull as dishwater, with no inventiveness at all. Many of the jokes are played out in masters, which lessens their impact as the audience is left to awkwardly linger over the characters as comedic moments fall flat. With a screenplay as fast as this, they needed to make more use of a twin camera setup to increase the punchiness of many of the jokes.
The colourist also oddly made the decision to zap all the colour out of the film, making it more akin to a Zack Snyder feature than a zany comedy. This lack of colour and general dullness to the image makes the film rather boring to look at – it desperately needed to be colour-graded to make the image more alive.
Deny Everything also makes no use of a complete musical score, though this is probably due to budgetary restrictions. The film instead opts to use music sparingly throughout the run-time, mainly for moments of intensity or comedy; this proves to be both successful and not. During some of the more intense moments in the film, the music works, giving the scene the extra level of suspense it needed. While in many of the comedic moments it falls flat, mainly due to seeming far too obvious, like the director is holding a sign up with the words: “Laugh now, this is a funny moment”.
This lack of a full score leads to the film being mostly comprised of diegetic sound. It’s clear that the director wanted to go for the Arrested Development style of comedy, having the dialogue carry the majority of the scenes. This proves to be a disservice to the film, as the lack of interesting camerawork and score leads to many of the jokes falling flat.
Aside from some strong performances and well-timed comedic moments, Deny Everything is ultimately a rather dull and monotonous film. This is frustrating, as there is clearly talent in front of and behind the camera; Knowles’ performance as Frank is fantastic and the screenplay occasionally shows signs of promise. Sadly, the screenplay’s unevenness holds it back from being anything truly special.
Too often do jokes fall flat for it to be a truly successful comedy, and the lack of character development makes it hard to care about the overall narrative. Despite all this, Deny Everything is still an entertaining watch thanks to the jokes that do land. These jokes and the somewhat decent acting make Deny Everything at least worth one watch, even if it is just for a joke about a silly hat.
So, what’s your favorite black comedy? Let us know in the comment section bellow!
Deny Everything currently does not have a distributor, but head to their website for more information.
“The clock has run out on sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace. It’s time to do something about it.” Read the Letter of Solidarity here. Make a donation to the legal fund here.