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Watching Test Pattern was very good for me, even if I didn’t like the film. Here’s why: my New Year’s resolution is to get more into film (beats reality and the news) and I now know what Neorealism is and the LA Rebellion. Doesn’t mean I fully understand both concepts, but I look forward to wrapping my head around the concepts over time. Here’s what I found on the internet:
“basic tenets of neorealism …study shifts in state behaviour. Six fundamental neorealist concepts are…1.section; 2.anarchy, 3.structure, 4.capability, 5. the distribution of power, polarity and 6.national interest.
The LA Rebellion: “concerned with the portrayal of African Americans on screen…film is a means for social change. Film scholar Clyde Taylor coined the name L.A. Rebellion.”
Ok, so knowing that, and seeing multiple reviewers praise for Test Pattern certainly makes me appreciate the movie more. Granted, I am a white woman who has always lived on the East Coast, so I don’t pretend to know anything. For all intents and purposes, I really appreciated some of the messages in Test Pattern.
First, the medical system, for lack of a stronger appropriate term, is f’d. A shambles, a mockery, insufficient and too corrupt to attend to all Americans needs. Equal to the detrimental effects of the stupid ‘virtual world’, is how money and greed has driven our medical system to ultimate malfeasance. On a smaller, but no less harmful scale, Ford showed the all too true lack of bedside manner from some medical professionals. So, bless you writer and director Shatara Michelle Ford for highlighting this insanity in your movie.
Second, I appreciated her displaying that despite much progress in women’s rights (and this is a round topic-see the flip side negative coming up*) there is also still a scary toxic masculinity that rears its ugly head in politics (aka the insane pro-life anti-choice initiative) and in male-female relationships; a me-Tarzan, you-Jane neanderthal approach. Ford shows this through both the blatant incel-like Cosbyesque abusers and via the more subtle, as in Renesha (the main character played by Brittany S. Hall) and her boyfriend Evan (played by Will Brill) when he wants to choose her next tattoo ‘to brand her as his’….like what???? That ain’t love.
One last positives; in the probably the most realistic scene in the entire movie, was Renesha showing her second date her messy bedroom which was in stark contrast to the perfection in the rest of the house. I assume this was symbolic of her life (and all of us humans) in that we put the best foot forward, while fully being the fallible ‘messy’ people on the inside.
Now my criticisms about the film:
A preface: I am not victim shaming, just wishing women could be shown as learning and becoming stronger and more savvy if God forbid, they are abused. Abuse can happen to the most cautious people and they should not be blamed, yet we also have to recognize risky behaavior and avoid that to the best of our individual responsiblity. The women portrayed int eh film did neither; weren’t self-protective, nor did they seem to change, except for the worse. If this is indeed an LA Rebellion film, why not show strength instead of just weak victimization? The women are much too naive and passive for the age group, which gives cues to both perpetrators that here’s some potential victims. Any self-defense course would tell you NOT to do 99% of what the women in this movie did.
Specifically, I would hate to think that impressionable young women watch this and think that everything from giving your phone number out to a stranger to taking drugs from a stranger should or could ever be something that is safe. This piggybacks a real life interview I just heard by the toilet seat licking Tik-Tok girl who met Antonio Brown alone in a hotel room, and having sex with him without ever having met him, vetted his health, etc. None of this is safe, respectful or emotionally or physically safe practice for a young woman.
Second*: Males need to be respectful of women, no doubt and there needs to be an EQUAL partnership in heterosexual relationships with MUTUAL respect. Yet men are not all bad and I wish Ford hadn’t al the men in this movie out to be douche-bags. Will Brill seemed to have to be overly apologetic in scene regarding a trivial matter and yet Renesha never seemed to have communicated any culpability regarding any of her behavior.
On more trivial screenwriting issues, there were several holes in the story telling, most important to least; Concerns about sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy-never addressed. Her missing cell phone, yet no stress (granted it was found). Her new job for instance? Not a concern. Her gorgeous condo, who pays for that?
Last, the acting was implausible through out.
In conclusion, Test Pattern had merit in its ideas and had the story telling rounded things out a bit, with a nuanced conversation about why he cared more about her health than she did, again possessiveness and/or her shame? Had this been explained a bit more, the characters would have seemed more real and the emotions more genuine. In the end instead I felt like I was watching the equivalent of pretty, glossy soap opera starring blind mice, bumping into walls of a maze without a learning curve. That’s not evolution, nor prescriptive, nor valuable art.