Screening as part of the 2020 Perth Revelation Film Festival’s COUCHED online line-up from July 9th-19th.  To purchase tickets, see schedules and additional information visit the official page HERE 

RevCouched Revelation Film Festival 2020

Frances Ferguson (2020)

A review by Adam Lovett

Writer/Director: Bob Byington

Starring: Kaley Wheless, Nick Offerman, Martin Starr, Jennifer Prediger, Keith Poulson, John Gatins

“Was this breaking the law?” our narrator asks repeatedly in this probing dark satire. It’s a question that can be aimed at multiple targets. Taking a dry ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT mockumentary approach this disquieting comedy is genuinely uncomfortable while amusing with its sensationalism free approach to a real-life sex scandal. Downplaying, reducing anything remarkable to its most pedestrian terms in order to spotlight a broken bureaucracy, a parasitic small-town community, gender bias and the disaffected underbelly of a generation.

The titular Frances Ferguson is trapped in a meaningless, uninspired reality. The illusion of a happy marriage has been dropped before we meet. Disdain would take too much effort so all that remains is apathy. She’s obligated to her 3-year-old daughter but far from doting or energized by parenthood. Her dreams, if she ever had any have evaporated without a trace. The ennui of her existence is palpable, it defines her. Her predominant trait beyond indifferent silence is snark, but talented as she is at it she can’t even muster zest to deliver it beyond a lethargic shrug.

So it is that Frances takes a job as a substitute teacher at a local high school in Nebraska. Perhaps in an attempt to break the monotony. True to form though she’s hardly out to shape young minds or mentor. The one surprise is her attraction to a 17-year-old student that offers a short lived awakening of passion that’s destined to change her trajectory forever.

The slyly didactic films tone is dictated by it’s central character, a move that wouldn’t succeed without the astonishingly metered performance of Kaley Wheless (THE HIGHWAYMEN). As Ferguson she is impossible to turn away from, a remarkable feat considering the aforementioned lethargic indifference of the character. Granted she is assisted by the ambiguities and undeniable compassion of the straight faced screenplay, but what’s on paper wouldn’t be elevated to such heights without her.

The glue holding it all together, that injects a wry sense of whimsy to the bleak subject is the over stepping narration of Nick Offerman (DEVS). The combination of these two onscreen elements in the assured hands of Writer/Director Bob Byington (7 CHINESE BROTHERS) makes for a deceptively immersive character piece that caters to a niche that can appreciate it’s masked smirk into the darkness of the modern world.

This maybe the last time we see Mrs Ferguson, but I will be making sure to follow the Director and star on whatever comes next in their careers.

Watch the trailer for FRANCES FERGUSON

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