Sweet Thing

D: Mark David; with Jeremy Fox, Amalia Stifter, Ev Lunning Jr., Lana Dieterich, Michael Dalmon, Evan Greenwalt, Stephen Bruton.

Mark David's ambitious debut is all splash and flash and unfortunately, little else. The sprawling narrative follows college artist Sean Fields (Fox), a waifish painter whose toxic past continually wrecks his emotional life but fuels his fevered, grotesque art. About 20 minutes in, the film also announces that it's a Hamlet retelling, although a noncommital one, complete with a bunch of scheming characters, plot twists, and spilled blood. The script, written by David and Mark Spacek, is a mess, although it's an impressively filmed mess, which occasionally obscures its clichés and predictability by flaunting its artistic chutzpah. Shot in Austin (local digs Club Inferno, High Life Cafe, and Dallas Nite Club are featured) for $67,000, the film also showcases several artists familiar to the Austin stage, including theatre veterans Lunning and Dieterich, as well as Amalia Stifter, who turns in the film's best performance as Sean's aloof and mysterious girlfriend. Saturated with splendid color and plenty of nerve, Sweet Thing is still overwrought and far too long. Remember the words of dear Polonius, boys: Brevity is the soul of wit.

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