A strange narrative/nonfiction/animation smorgasbord that could be termed "Acid Christian," Eric Leiser's naive and loopy"Glitch in the Grid" tries to dramatize a lonely young artist's search for meaning and purpose.

A strange narrative/nonfiction/animation smorgasbord that could be termed “Acid Christian,” Eric Leiser’s naive and loopy”Glitch in the Grid” tries to dramatize a lonely young artist’s search for meaning and purpose. Leiser flexes his animation muscles with a bewitching stop-motion technique, but it proves a poor fit with a scattershot storyline that includes quasi-interview and improv segments that never coalesce into a coherent whole. Verging on primitivist, the pic could gather a cult following during select playdates in Gotham and West Coast cities.

The story, such as it is, centers on Jay (Jay Masonek), a depressed animation artist and filmmaker living with his relatives in Sebastopol, Calif., west of Sacramento, who’s urged to get out of his funk by spending time with cousins Eric and Jeffrey (Leiser and composer brother Jeffrey) in Los Angeles. Oddly, Jeffrey and Eric drive north to bring Jay back south; Jay then tries to get into acting, though little reason is given for what appears to be an impossible venture from the start.

The three eventually go their separate ways, with Jay returning home, Jeffrey moving to New York and Eric arranging for his marriage to a British gal in Hastings. How much of this is concocted as fiction and how much is recorded or slightly altered from actual events is impossible to determine, and this blurred line between fiction and nonfiction at least makes “Glitch in the Grid” part of a global cinema conversation going on right now among adventurous young filmmakers.

The difference here is that, unlike many fine examples of such pics that straddle the line, the level of discussion and ideas expressed — especially in a string of awkward voiceovers by the Leiser brothers, as well as onscreen “interviews” with Masonek — are borderline embarrassing in their banality. (“If things continue on our fast-food society, it’s not gonna be really good” is a typical big statement here; the title comes from a uncomfortably laughable self-description by Jay: “I feel like a glitch in the grid because I don’t feel I belong anywhere … but someday I’ll find the key to unlock the grid.”)

Eric Leiser, a CalArts animation alum, neither describes nor visually expresses what this grid actually is, but his many asides in stop-motion swirls are dreamily wonderful, and generally stand alone as discrete and intact sections. His fascination with land art comes across with amusing dexterity and a piquant sense of humor, but even here, the repeated motif of a flying dove, part of the film’s direct but never preachy Christian philosophy, betrays a weakness for kitsch.

Leiser’s animated cinematography is gorgeous, shot often in woody environs, while the wide-ranging crew of lensers deployed at several locations in California, Britain and elsewhere (in color and black-and-white DV) is as willy-nilly in quality as the pic’s sound.

Glitch in the Grid

Production

A Vanguard Cinema release of an Albino Fawn Prods. presentation. Producer, Eric Leiser. Executive producer, Lorrete Bayle. Directed, written by Eric Leiser.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, DV), Leiser, Rory Owen Delaney, Marco Menestrina, Richard Samuels, Dale Marks, Daniel Seeley, Iggy Villamar, Adrian Sierkowski, Nathan Meier, Patrick Crowley; editors, Eric Leiser, Jenny Leiser; music, Jeffrey Leiser; production designer, Eric Leiser; costume designer, Lindy Fox; sound (stereo), Guillaume Raynaud; sound designer, Jeffrey Leiser; sound re-recording mixer, Jeffrey Leiser; animation/photography, Eric Leiser. Reviewed on DVD, Los Angeles, Oct. 24, 2011. (In Annecy Animation Film Festival.) Running time: 83 MIN.

With

Jay Masonek, Jeffrey Leiser, Eric Leiser, Erin Desmond, Michelle Desmond, Linda Darnall, Patricia Darnall.

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more