“LIFE HACK” screened at this year’s SDiFF and took home the award for Audience Choice Best Feature. This cyber-comedy of sorts is written and directed by Sloan Copeland and stars; Derek Wilson, Jessica Copeland, and Mike Giese. The story revolves around the issue of digital privacy, and how one decision could very easily ruin a person’s life due to the ease of which someone’s entire world can be exposed through the internet, and more so the digital-age we live in.
No matter how amazing film festivals can be to attend. You don’t often know what you are going to get with each passing film. You can glance at a synopsis and get a broad idea of what a film will deliver. But given variables such as film-making techniques, writing experience, the performances, the overall budget and so on, the final result is often a mystery. “Life Hack” was a film I knew on synopsis alone. Not having seen the trailer I was still interested in what a comedy wrapped in the package of a cyber-thriller could turn into.
It was an odd blend of tones to me from reading the synopsis. But as the film progressed and the story-line captured my attention. I quickly realized what I thought would be odd, was actually a smooth balance of a serious narrative, layered with quick-witted comedic dialogue. It has been some time since a film was able to weave such a strong amount of organic humor into the conversations between the characters without seeming like it was trying to tell jokes for a laugh. The result was an engaging film with consistent humor, that compliments a plot with structure and substance.
Not everyone is up-to-date with technical terminology. Those who are, will find the tech-talk intriguing as it explores the plot. If you are not overly tech savvy, you can still get the intended messages in some of the more computer-dense scenes through the mannerisms and delivery of the performers. Comedies often entertain but unless the subject matter is top-notch, you may not feel overly intrigued. That element was something this film pulled off. It somewhat subtly weaves a plot that has a lot of social relevance in our world today. With situations and scenarios that can connect with you because they can happen to anyone. All the while never forgetting to infuse humor into the tone without ever sacrificing its seriousness.
The performances were another strong aspect with Derek Wilson, Mike Giese and Dylan Pinter all providing some grounded characters. They had a strong natural chemistry with one another that made their character dynamics realistic. Their rapport also complimented the dialogue so effectively in making the comedic impact that much more successful. Jessica Copeland was also perfect for what the role needed of her. She pulls off the persona of a hip, strong-willed woman trying to make a break as an actress very well, and she holds her own is creating some amusing moments.
Devin Ratray known to many as the big brother Buzz from “Home Alone” who is the biggest name in this film, provides one of its more memorable moments. His single scene inside a phone store as he talks to a couple of the main characters is easily the laughable moment in the film. It was so well structured and the comedic styling was worked into the conversation and situation with such a clever ambition. It was a combination of creative dialogue, and perfectly timed performances that capture some great reactions, and it was a hilarious scene that could rival and surpass some scenes found in many big-budget comedies.
The direction from Sloan Copeland was subtle but he does a great job of giving the entire film an intimate feel in the way he frames up some of the shots and through his camera movements. As a viewer you feel like you are routinely there with the characters engaging in the scenes with them because of this technique and it adds another element to the film experience. Copeland’s writing shows a great sense of humor and the story-line that holds it all together has a steady pace. It doesn’t try to do too much and while it may not be perfect, it shows quality on many levels. It’s an entertaining movie that has some relevance to the world we live in today and if this one screens at a film festival in your neighborhood, I definitely recommend checking it out.