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STUDIO: Virgil Films and Entertainment
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes
• Deleted Scenes
• Behind the Scenes
A couple interrupts people’s lives to play cruel and unusual psychological mind games.
Written and directed by Simon Arthur, starring Lee Tergesen and Enid Graham.
An impressive and haunting psychological drama from first time filmmaker Simon Arthur.
With a story that constantly challenges you to change your perception of the lead characters, Scottish filmmaker Simon Arthur’s debut feature Silver Tongues could fall easily into the con-man genre. Like traditional con movies, the characters set up a well-crafted drama that the “marks” unknowingly take part in. The goal of the confidence artist is to, of course, relieve the mark of their wealth – but that’s where Silver Tongues is notably different.
The con artists here, lovers Gerry and Joan, end their deceitful dramas with their pockets no heavier than when they started, sometimes lighter even. At first it seems like they’re messing with people for fun, simply to get their kicks, but as the various dramas unfold it’s apparent they’re doing it to fill some kind of void in their own lives. As one character states, “If you have nothing, you make something up.”
The film’s made up of four vignettes, with short pieces framing them all. The first sees Gerry (Lee Tergesen) and Joan (Enid Graham) interrupting the honeymoon of a young couple and setting them up for a lifetime of mistrust. Gerry and Joan then act out their abhorrent dramas at a church service, a retirement home, and finally inside a police station. They all exhibit varying degrees of twisted morality and intent as the couple pulls the rug out from under other people’s lives. It’s like watching the darkest performance art imaginable.
Once the curtain closes, Gerry and Joan drive off to another stage and play a different set of characters. The line between their cons and their real life is blurry and even during these car rides and pit stops you can’t tell if they’re lying or not – even to each other.
So why is watching an old man in a retirement home being mind-fucked entertaining? I spoke with Arthur about this at the 2011 Florida Film Festival (where I first saw the film) and he explained his belief that audiences are getting more and more comfortable with not being able to relate to characters in film. He believes they’ll watch as long as characters are interesting. He used the critical and financial success of films like No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood as examples. The characters in his film, Gerry and Joan, certainly are interesting and not completely evil. The final, beautiful moments of the film even manage to draw sympathy for them.
Lee Tergesen (Oz) and Enid Graham (Boardwalk Empire) are fantastic and creepy as hell. Like all good con men they’re also deeply charismatic. Even when their cons take disgusting turns – the retirement home was particularly hard to stomach for me – you’re willing to continue this bizarre road trip of deceit with them. Tergesen is particularly chilling. He’s got a great face for mischief that’s used to full effect here. You want to punch him and buy him a beer at the same time.
I really hope Silver Tongues leads to more films for Arthur. He shows here he’s capable of tackling moral and emotional complexities while not forgetting to have some fun. It’s not a casual watch. It’s nuances (often without the use of dialogue) demand your attention up to the final haunting minute. And if you say you’re not haunted by the conclusion of Silver Tongues, you’re only lying to yourself.
The copy I got was a screener that did not include any special features.
Rating: Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Out of a Possible 5 Stars