My Imaginary Life for Someone Movie Review

Written by Jamie Van Hove

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Written and directed by Ryan McGlade and Molly Wurwand
2023, 76 minutes, Not Yet Rated
Film Maudit 2.0 screening on 15th June 2024

Starring:
Sania Dela Cruize as Darla Cruz
Summer Fannin as Vanessa Spencer
Annette Homewood as Kristi McClenna
Tamara Lee as Bree Lachlan

Review:

I was excited by the premise of My Imaginary Life for Someone. The film’s blurb, strewn with tantalising tidbits promising “a kaleidoscope of fantasy and truth”, taking place in “an abstracted Los Angeles, a dreamlike labyrinth of mysterious mansions where the residents embody this hyperreal city”, worked as catnip to my thrill-seeking psyche. And doesn’t that charming title just turn a little mysterious corner in your mind? It does in mine.

I’m a fan of art that takes place in the queasy space of is-it-real-or-not. To my mind, amongst other interesting attributes, this conceit can confuse one’s intake of a piece of art, make it slippery and less easy to digest (a good thing), possibly allowing for slower and less knee-jerk appraisal. One of my favourite films of recent years is the Ross Brothers’ Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets, at first glance a doc about the closing night of a dive bar, Roaring 20s, showing the events taking place within that space and time. I was surprised when I found out post-viewing that the film was fabricated – there was no Roaring 20s bar and the cast was made of various characters who were filmed just drinking and doing their things. Instead of rendering the film untrue, I found this sleight-of-hand added an extra, intriguing, layer, making the film feel more ‘real’ than if it were a fly on the wall doc, although I found it hard to define just why this was the case. With that in mind, I had high hopes for MILfS (oh, I just got the gag…), hoping for some of that clarifying confusion applied to the world of the LA wealthy, a milieu wherein there’s doubtless plenty of scope for interest and fancy, and an already fertile space for mirrors and illusion.

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My Imaginary Life… gives us glimpses of various scenarios, each of them involving a Hollywood-dwelling woman of some description. We encounter Vanessa Spencer, owner of the largest collection of Princess Diana memorabilia in North America; visit Brick Manor – designed and inhabited by Kristi McClenna, a one-time Playboy bunny, and her husband Mort; share the 100th birthday celebrations of a wheelchair bound media mogul who’s ‘celebrating’ with his younger, plastic surgery ‘enhanced’ wife; and others.

There’s good stuff in the film. Most of the leads give great performances, managing to balance on the tightrope between documentary and drama. Summer Fannin in particular, playing Diana obsessed Vanessa Spencer, injects a stilted quality to her lines’ delivery, giving her character the feel of a genuine person who’s not used to talking on camera. I also enjoyed the fragmented nature of the film, slipping from various moments in the ensemble of characters’ lives, some as if being interviewed for the project, some more fly-on-the-wall. Our tour of Mort and Christie’s mansion is interjected with scenes from official police footage of the rooms we’re shown around, portending something bad happening in the dream home, potentially to the happy dwellers, although the filmmakers boldly never let us know what’s occurred. Also, there are some beautiful interstitial shots within the film - open spaces, empty or with little action taking place - and these nicely situate the ‘meat’ of the film within the landscape of America, corporate yet also frequently quiet, open and eerie.
Some of the humour struck me as a little simplistic – an older man falls asleep on camera; a woman sings an out-of-key song to her dead husband’s ashes. There’s a scene in which a bedbound woman’s heavy metal playing son appears magically, amp and all, in her bedroom, and plays his new song ‘Coffin Fit’, which made me feel embarrassed (although typing that now makes it sound better and I wonder if I’m just being a grump).

My biggest criticism would be that the film isn’t weird enough. Sure, it’s weird. The dialogue, the subject matter, some of the characters’ appearances, the storytelling, all are emblematic of a desire for weirdness, but I kept yearning for the film to go further, maybe be a little less friendly. Again, this is fecund territory, and I thought MILfS only began to scratch the surface.

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‘Rich people are creepy’ is true and a good premise for a film, but I felt I detected some heart behind MILfS. There’s a sense that the characters, although definitely being laughed at, are considered with some kind of fondness or kindness. Maybe I’m sensing something that isn’t there, but I admired the makers not going straight for the jugular with such easy targets.

To circle back to my love of reality/fiction boundary blurring art, sadly this film doesn’t quite tick the boxes required to transcend into that slippery yet illuminating zone. The aforementioned humour seems too forced; the situations manufactured.

Some of the themes and characters of My Imaginary Life… exist in co-writer and director Molly Wurwand’s other interesting looking artistic endeavours, her website stating that “They (Molly) are inspired by performances of genders + plastic surgery + pseudo-celebrity + simulacrum + the hypnotic discomfort of being alive inside a body”. If you share those interests, I’d say it’s worth your while giving My Imaginary Life for Someone a try. It might not have lived up to my imaginings (nigh impossible, I know), but there’s definitely something there.

Grades:

Movie: 3 Star Rating Cover
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