The Commune (2009)
By: Captain Red Eye on November 18, 2009  |  Comments ()  |  Bookmark and Share
Director: Elisabeth Fies
Starring: Chauntal Lewis, David Lago, Stuart G. Bennett, Adrian Lee, Elisabeth Fies
Screenplay: Elisabeth Fies
Country: USA
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16-year-old Jenny (Chauntel Lewis) is reluctantly spending summer vacation with her estranged father Dr. Clark Polieos (Stuart Bennett) on a sprawling commune somewhere in rural California. Upon arrival she is given a tour of the property by her father's new love, a tiresome old windbag named Rhea, who helpfully points out features such as the sauna ('the shape represents the vagina, and helps make you hot and wet') and summarises the resident ideology ('we are all virgin mother crows'). No lover of tofu or patchouli, Jenny quickly expresses a desire to get the hell back to San Jose but is persuaded by her heavily bearded and beaded pappy to stay for 'just one more night'. She agrees, having become enamoured of a local rocker with the unlikely name of Puck, a sensitive fellow with a preference for eyeliner and self-expression through song, however when the ever-vigilant Doctor discovers the burgeoning affair all hell breaks loose.

This is a fellow who will likely not win Father of the Year anytime soon. Though revered by the rest of the hippies as a learned and groovy dude, his idea of good parenting is creepily singing Marvin Gaye's 'Sexual Healing' whilst casting suggestive glances at his own daughter. Needless to say the pair do not bond particularly well, until the movie's druggy, chant-fuelled climax, when it could be argued they bond a little too well.

Filmed on an actual commune named Isis Oasis, 'a sanctuary for ocelots and priestesses', the film utilised many of the sanctuary's long-term residents as extras. As may be expected when dealing with people who bestow upon themselves monikers such as 'Winter' and 'Imhotep', much of the hippy prattle is grating. A pre-dinner prayer contains the line 'Blessed be the earthworm who tunnels through the soil' and Jenny's request for some milk is met with 'we don't drink other species pregnancy secretions'. Bennett as the patriarch was also a strange casting decision; despite looking like a scruffy Middle Eastern suicide bomber he has somehow managed to spawn a blond-haired blue-eyed Aryan Valley Girl. I'm no expert on recessive genetics, but Jenny's mother, portrayed by director Lis Fies, also has dark hair and eyes. Unless there was a Scandinavian forbear in there somewhere, something seems amiss.

At any rate The Commune makes the most of its miniscule budget, and contains some nicely staged external shots and clever use of recurrent symbolic imagery. The opening scene in which a pair of knitting needles are put to unexpected use certainly captures the viewer's attention, and despite being sixteen going on thirty Lewis proves a strong actress who carries the film with aplomb. For those that can stomach all the hippy-dippy dialogue, this is an enjoyable enough journey into the psyche of dysfunction, and one that certainly throws up the odd surprise along the way.

Movie Score

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