Laconic and edgy
What’s the logical course of action to take when a person is low on cash? Obviously, become a stripper. Following the comedic and raunchy film Magic Mike, director Scott Baldyga brings the movie Misled, which attempts to portray the world of a male stripper as a dramatic and inspirational one. The movie follows Jason (Jonathan Stanley) who turns to stripping and prostitution thanks to his financial problems, while also struggling with his drug dealing brother and his new girlfriend. Although this film aims high, a disjointed and vague storyline, and little character development, hinder its efforts to achieve the enormity of the true and powerful story it aspires to depict. From the very first frame, the intentions to create a plot in the film seems vague.
The audience is presented with three main subplots—Jason’s struggle with money and prostitution, his brother Bobby’s drug dealing and gang problems, and a haunting childhood memory that Bobby and Jason share. However, Misled fails to illustrate how the three happenings relate to each other, creating no uniformity or relationships between the events. Oftentimes, scenes or occurrences appear vague or hard to follow, with certain key aspects being left out or unexplained.
Following this ambiguity, some important plot points come across confusing or unclear, leaving us guessing. This leads to uneven pacing, with events seeming to unravel awkwardly and out-of-place. For instance, many of the flashbacks are extremely short and obscure with depictions that reveal little to nothing about the plot. Certain scenes also seem long and drawn out or repetitive, while others felt unnecessary. In addition, many of the themes and plot devices in Misled are overused, like drug dealing, owing dangerous individuals money, haunting childhood memories, and taking desperate measures for financial needs. Many of the dilemmas the characters encounter are represented superficially, and the overall plot does not distinguish itself.
Many of the dilemmas the characters encounter are represented superficially, and the overall plot does not stand out or distinguish itself. Just as the storyline struggles, the character development in this film is scarce and undefined. Jason’s character remains the same throughout the entire storyline, without any illustration about how his past or present actions are affecting him. Audiences watch as Jason complacently experiences being driven to stripping and prostitution, attempts to save his brother from his world of crime, and deals with traumatic events from his past without any emotional strain, visible depth, or self-transformations. Similarly, his brother Bobby also comes across as a one-dimensional character, without depicted explanation of his deep-rooted inner struggle and no buildup to his emotional state in the final moments of the film.
Resulting from this absence, any possibility of character appeal is lost, because the insufficient portrayals cause viewers to lose interest in their story. The greatest downfall of this film and largest hindrance of the storyline is undoubtedly the script. Whether conversations occur at the strip club or Jason’s mother’s house, the dialogue feels out-of-place, illogical and random, or fails to explain important backstories or present events. Conversations often appear jagged and do not flow smoothly, where one moment the characters discuss light subjects, and the next, spout out a heavy topic. These instances lead the lines to come across unnaturally, and in several scenes, these exchanges fail to go beyond the superficial.
The conversations do not flow logically or evenly, and oftentimes, do not make any sense . Adding to the confusion, the script is vague and does not provide sufficient explanation or transitions before events occur, making developments like Jason’s job or his relationships happen unnaturally fast. For example, he exchanges when the club manager tried to convince Jason to become a stripper were very unclear and his decision was not established until the movie showed scenes of him stripping. The main cast and a majority of the supporting actors gave average performances, however, Jonathan Stanley didn’t quite deliver Jason’s lines with enough emotion or depth, simply saying the words, and as a result, Jason was not the strongest of characters. Matt Lockwood as Bobby and Natalie Avital as Jason’s girlfriend Christina, give average portrayals where more intensity would have helped better communicate their experiences.
The strongest performance would come from Sammy Sheik as “DJ,” the club owner, executing his lines to the best of his abilities with the script he was given. Overall, amidst the negative aspects of Misled, the style the movie was created with is new and refreshing. The visuals juxtapose gritty and pale shots of the run-down town that create a hopeless tone, with colorful scenes of the dance club and Jason’s other workplaces. Each different scene is introduced with a certain conversation, different noises, or distinguishable music that sets the mood for the events that unravel. These sound introductions are also accompanied by interesting cinematography that succeeds at creating the scene of the crime ridden town of Detroit.
While Misled suffers from a lacking plot and certain intrinsic flaws, the movie does present a curious and unique style of filming that perfectly synthesizes the laconic and edgy atmosphere for the events to unravel in.