Through the slow, steady accumulation of seemingly random but increasingly portentous details, helmer Daniel Martinico fashions a riveting portrait of an actor on the verge of a nervous breakdown — or, quite possibly, something worse — in “OK, Good,” a teasingly elliptical bare-bones drama that could spark interest at fests and on VOD. Often reminiscent of austere works by Robert Bresson and Chantal Akerman, the pic has minimal commercial potential. Even so, it might help elevate the profile of co-scripter and co-producer Hugo Armstrong if the right people view his subtly unsettling lead performance.
Armstrong plays Paul Kaplan, a balding, bland-looking, thirtysomething L.A. actor who divides his time between demoralizing (and often humiliating) auditions for TV commercials — at which, evidently, he’s rarely if ever hired — and attending intense sessions of a physical-movement workshop.
While alone at home or in his car, he constantly listens to motivational CDs that encourage forceful expression and relentless drive. But whenever he attempts to speak without a script — even to a voice-mail prompt — he comes off as unassuming, if not downright timid, and tongue-tied.
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From the start, Martinico and Armstrong indicate Kaplan is fully alive and comfortable in his skin only when he is pretending to be someone else. As he delivers the cheery banalities of a pottery-soil pitchman at a commercial audition, the underemployed actor appears far more animated, and much happier, than he ever does during the drudgery of his daily life. When an off-camera director says, “Make your eyes sparkle,” he readily complies.
But there’s never much doubt that Kaplan is struggling to tamp down a mounting inner rage as he continually deals with rejections and frustrations. In one scene, the camera remains outside while he enters a printing shop to complain about the processing of his headshots. As the scene progresses, some viewers may actually half-expect to hear gunshots.
There are sporadic snatches of dialogue spoken by fleetingly glimpsed supporting players (many of them culled from the ranks of the L.A. theater scene) and much screaming and shouting by fellow students at the physical-movement workshop. For all practical purposes, however, “OK, Good” is a one-man show — until the final scene, at least — and Armstrong rises to the challenge with a rigorously controlled performance that suggests the human equivalent of a ticking time bomb.
Pic proceeds at a purposefully measured pace, stealthily building suspense without resorting to obvious effects. Production values indicate pinched pennies were spent wisely.