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Tales From “Watch Instantly”: Film Geek (2005)

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When watching Film Geek, a couple of thoughts occurred to me: 1) it's ironic that I'm watching a movie based around a video store clerk on the very service that is killing them, and 2) this movie is a lot better than what I was expecting.

Film Geek stars Melik Malkasian as Scott Pelk, a socially awkward film geek (guess where they got the title?) who works at a Portland, Oregon video store. His abrasive personality, and lack of social grace, makes him a nuisance to the patrons who come to the store and his co-workers, who don't care about what Jean-Luc Goddard has done or the ins and outs of Aliens. When not at the store, he is at his small apartment, the walls of which are covered in VHS tapes and movie posters, eating cereal and obsessively updating his personal film site, which still has zero views.

Eventually, his boss has enough of his antics and fires Scott. Scott is heartbroken, and takes a job at a local auto parts warehouse, after failed attempts to get a job at the other Portland video stores. One day, Scott meets hipster Niko (Taylor Gannon), who is able to match him on film knowledge, but is initially turned off by his awkwardness. Scott decides to pursue her anyway with the same obsessiveness he approaches film, and eventually they strike up a shaky friendship… which Scott wants to be more than that.

The best way to describe Scott Pelk is to compare him to the character of Abed from the NBC show Community. In fact, the two are so similar that you think the Community creators saw Film Geek and decided to tweak the character a little bit for a mainstream audience. Melik Malkasian does an excellent job playing Scott, with all his little quirks and his vast film knowledge. It feels very honest and very realistic, like he's actually the character as opposed to just acting like the character. The great thing about the character is that he isn't quirky just for the sake of being quirky. There's a hidden sadness to him that comes out in spurts. Yes, he's obsessed with movies, but there's a reason behind it. It is perfectly summed up in the line "movies let you be other people." Scott can sense he's socially awkward and while he tries to change it, he never can seem to and he sinks himself into film because he hates himself. It's a pretty deep character for a 78-minute film.

Film Geek isn't a character study in the way that The Wrestler is. This is a comedy, pure and simple, and Malkasian is hilarious. His rapid fire delivery of favorite films and the way he adds "um, yeah probably" and other phrases in between his sentences is great. He is great with the traditional awkward mannerisms (not looking anyone in the face, coughing violently the first time he smokes, trying to put his arm around Niko) and I laughed at a lot at everything he did. I cannot say enough about Melik Malkasian; he's simply great.

The direction by James Westby is simple but works, and I especially liked the parts where the films lists different "top fives" for Scott, from "favorite Peter Jackson films" to "favorite date movies." Film Geek obviously had a very small budget, and Westby does well with it, keeping it to simple locations and hiring a very capable cast to handle the material.

I did have a few complaints about Film Geek, though. Malkasian's voice can be really annoying in spots. He's got a very Urkel-like nerd squeal and when it's done non-stop, it can get grating. The relationship between Scott and Niko was also a very generic indie quirky romance, where the lovable goof tries to land the really hot girl who's out of his league. The low budget also means that the soundtrack consists of about four different songs, and the "theme" gets overplayed and annoying reeeeeal quick.

My biggest complaint was with the ending. Film Geek's story and pacing lead to a very realistic conclusion, but in the final five minutes it completely falls apart and ruins it. I won't spoil it for obvious reasons, but I shouted "REALLY?!?" at the screen. It almost ruined my experience.

But ruin my experience it didn't, and overall, I really enjoyed Film Geek. It's a low budget independent character study about a socially awkward guy whose obsession with film is both a way to get close to people and to draw himself away. For any movie nerd or film critic, or anyone who likes an art house film more than the latest Michael Bay blockbuster, Film Geek is worth a watch. It's made for that kind of crowd.

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