Released: 20th December 2016
Seen: 7th April
Some films are very complicated, with a large cast of wild and various characters who go on some convoluted quest and have to deal with some form of a serious antagonist who stands in their way and causes them a large amount of persistent trouble… then there are the films that feel like we’re just watching an hour in a couple of people’s lives. Sometimes you’re in the mood for something big and grand, sometimes you just need a little bit of character study and considering how we’re not allowed to be near actual people anymore, this seems like the right time to just enjoy a good little character piece since I am becoming that desperate for human contact.
Turnabout is a small film where we only focus on two people. Billy (George Katt) is a suicidal man who had reached the end of his rope so he calls his old friend Perry (Waylon Payne) to try and get someone to lean on. Perry is living a more respectable life with a decent job, wife and kids so the two of them are complete opposites. After Perry helps clean Billy up, since Billy jumped into a large body of water before finally making the call to Perry, the two of them hit a diner and we follow them on a night that starts out fairly OK (all things considered) but will end in tragedy.
What makes this film work is the two leads are genuinely fascinating. A large amount of the film is just the two of them talking and their back and forth is kind of interesting. These characters clearly have a long and storied past and getting just a glimpse into that is fascinating. Helping make these simple scenes of conversation work are the two actors who deliver some genuinely engaging performances that make you want to know just how their night’s going to go. Sure there are a few moments when Billy is just such a total idiot that you genuinely wonder how he survived life in general, let alone his attempted suicide but you also get that Perry never sees that. It’s for the benefit of the audience so we’ll assume the worst of Billy and as the story goes have those assumptions challenged.
The ending is one of those left turn endings that can really change how you view a story as it’s being told. It doesn’t exactly come out of nowhere but the twist is certainly shocking and just the right amount of ambiguous that it keeps you on your toes, giving both the main characters something big that they need to contend with after a night of catching up. The problem with the twist is that it’s very last moment, it’s the final act and after it happens one of the main characters basically just leaves the film unceremoniously. It works for a bit but then they take it in a direction that just doesn’t quite handle the seriousness of the final issue properly. If anything it brushes the major issue aside, everyone goes away happy even though there’s this huge thing that happened that should seriously alter the lives of everyone involved.
It doesn’t help that the film does feel a little bit flat in tone. Minimal score and very simple shots accompanying a very simple story and while that’s a fine choice to make, the ending of the film is meant to actually get the emotions going but the film really doesn’t put much into forcing an emotion out of you. No dramatic music, energetic shots or editing tricks. The most energetic shot in the film is the opening scene where Billy is driving recklessly, downing pills and booze while the camera in the back seems to react to every pothole on the road. We needed that kind of energy toward the ending to make it hit home but it doesn’t. It presents this massive issue, throws it out to the ocean and moves on with its day as though nothing happened.
Turnabout has a fair amount going for it, namely with the two leads and there’s a half-decent story here that could keep an audience entertained for an hour and a half. It’s watchable, it has some charm to it and you can see where it could truly excel but it just has a few rough edges it needed to get fixed up.