It was an hour long. I loved it. Hearkening back to slacker pics from the '90s, Short Stay follows Mike, a young guy living near Philadelphia, with not too much going on in his life. He'll meet an acquaintance. You wanna hang out? He'll say sure. He's up for most things. All those yeses do mean moving into the city and taking over a friends job, but Mike's life doesn't change much. Not much action or conversation happen whenever he goes out. And yet it adds up to something.
I never thought I would describe a film as more lo-fi and less eventful than Funny Ha Ha by Andrew Bujalski, the American indie filmmaker and king of Mumblecore, but this debut feature from Ted Fendt really is more understated.
Perhaps the innovation here is the neatly succinct scenes. The film never meanders. It is tempting to describe it that way but it would be incorrect. When Mike goes to a party or a movie or a coffee with a girl it tends to all be over in about a minute. And there are little dramas within the vagaries. Neither does Short Stay concern itself with pure aesthetics, although it certain has a look and feel (it was shot on 16mm)—grainy (in a good way), languid, brief.
There is a startling and delightful lack of exposition. Who is Mike? We might have some ideas but we are just guessing. It feels uncharitable to note that the actors are not attractive. But they are not, and that makes them strangely compelling to watch on screen; it is so unusual, even in an indie film. This also reminded me of Bujalski, especially when he casts himself. The actors seem like amateurs, in a refreshing way. There is an awkwardness that reminds me of the performances in Clerks—awkward but not annoying. Obviously this is not for everyone; there were about ten people at the show.
Ted Fendt seems like a director to watch. I don't know how to get hold of his short films but I'm going to try.