24 Exposures (NR)

Horror January 24, 2014
By Alan Scherstuhl
"You don't think something can be artistic if it has boobies in it?" a fetish photographer asks in 24 Exposures, the latest from Joe Swanberg, the director of the first-rate Drinking Buddies and a host of squirrelly, shambolic, this-is-how-people-actually-talk micro-budget films, some ace and some curios. That prickish photographer, Billy (played by Adam Wingard, the director of You're Next), is wooing one of the barista-next-door beauties whose breasts seem to be this mordant not-quite-a-thriller's raison d'être. The woman (Helen Rogers) seems flattered but doesn't sign up, yet, and the scene has a flirty, dirty, real-life tingle — it's one of those loose, somewhat improvised moments that often flower between Swanberg's characters. Wingard's a tallish guy who makes movies, so you'll probably buy it when, a scene or so later, his quarry is up for a topless makeout with another model in the photographer's shower. Nobody's arguing that nudity precludes the possibility of serious artistic intent, except maybe those dopes who complain that the flesh bared on Girls doesn't seem to be there to inspire masturbation. 24 Exposures, on the other hand, seems crafted for viewers to watch with their hands in their pants. Yes, as the horny photographer and his girlfriend (Caroline White) hook up with their models, there are clever feints toward parody and criticism of godawful erotic thrillers, but the point of the nude scenes never feels like anything more than the nudity. Swanberg has made an inspiring career out of rejecting the aesthetic crimes of Hollywood. It's dispiriting, then, that he so doggedly indulges in its tradition of male gazing. This is strict T&A, in a literal sense -- just tits and ass, often gamely fondled.
Joe Swanberg Adam Wingard, Simon Barrett, Helen Rogers, Caroline White, Sophia Takal, Mike Brune, Caitlin Stainken Joe Swanberg

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