Sundance 2019: Nope to “Mope”

The film “Mope,” which is based on real events, appeared in the Midnight section at this year’s Sundance film festival. Sadly, this trashy ride into LA’s porn industry was directed with all the finesse of a dizzy elephant on ice and is replete with uneven performances, abysmal direction and appalling cinematography to boot. It’s simply a disappointing entry in this year’s Midnight section.

The storyline follows two inept, low-paid wanna-be porn stars, who meet on a porn set and instantly bond. The two become affiliated with a cheap porn studio in the valley with hopes of making it big, doing anything to become famous—even being kicked in the balls on camera for an apparent new fetish. As noted, the film is inspired by the true story of Stephen Hill, a mentally ill sex performer, who lost his mind after being fired by his boss at Ultima DVD and went on a sword-slashing rampage and killing his best friend before dying at the hands of the police.

The film, directed by Lucas Heyne, is simply tone deaf on so many levels that it fails to make it out of the first act. For instance, learning that the protagonist suffers from horrific body odor didn’t help suspend my disbelief. Nor did the endless shots of incredibly unattractive male performers with less sexual appeal than Shrek. By act two, the cinema was half full, and those that remained were either asleep or perhaps watching Netflix on their phones. By act three, I questioned my sanity, seated in a dark theater squinting unfathomably at a feature full of toxic masculinity and endless penis jokes that finally had me fleeing for the aisles.

It’s a pity. I believe the examination of mental illness in a billion dollar global porn industry set in the San Fernando Valley could have been fascinating in the hands of a more gifted filmmaker.