Sophie Dia Pegrum
Sophie Dia Pegrum
I'll be honest. I didn't expect a lot going into Sophie Dia Pegrum's film "Dogstar," not much at all. As I hit the play button and began this journey - complete with the old school 4:3 aspect ratio, my low expectations held, and I buckled in for a long, long ride. I was not immediately aware that this indie film was created in the late nineties, and once again cursed my bad habit of not watching trailers or reading up on a movie before watching. With that said, it wasn't long before I forgot my trepidation of this film and was lost within. Sometimes, low-budget or big budget, new or old, a film simply manages to capture your attention and hold it. Sometimes... good is just good, and "Dogstar" happens to be one such movie. It may look a little dated, but perhaps that adds to the charm.
In the film, the title character Dogstar is an awkward, unusual man. He's incredibly reclusive, sometimes talks with fish, lives at home, and has a heart of gold. Although his medical/mental problems are very present in the film, they only serve to add to the unusual romantic drama the story calls for. Nothing more, nothing less. Even "Dogstar's" portrayal of a completely dysfunctional family is used mainly to push the central narrative forward. That narrative? Dogstar and Gabrielle's relationship, of course. You did notice this film is a romantic drama, didn't you? It's the relationship between the two that really makes this film shine, because as expected, Gabrielle has some issues of her own. Serious ones. Without spoiling things, let me write that "Dogstar" is about relationships and dynamics. Two less than perfect people, both suffering in different ways, within a less than ideal world. The actual character Dogstar, is the unique spin on a story most are familiar with. What makes this film even more interesting is that many issues of the movie are still relatable today. Especially regarding Gabrielle - some social issues never seem to change.
The portrayal of the Dogstar "character" from Jon Jacobs is quite impressive. Although not really the term I want to use, the adolescent characterization of "wonder" is really quite endearing. As stated, "wonder" doesn't quite fit, but it works well enough to get an idea of the person Jacobs seems to be leaning towards. The flashbacks to Dogstar's youth solidify this feeling, and it works so damn well. As a matter of fact? All the characters in this film are handled well - and come across as anything but, the Ward and June Cleaver world of the ideal family unit. The addition of Dogstar's mental state also holds an old-school romantic aesthetic, which really helps keep the film grounded. This is especially evident when Dogstar leaves his comfort zone. Bottom line? It's the cast portrayals of the characters that stop the viewer from noticing many of the technical shortcomings within the film. Especially once you've adjusted to the style Sophie Dia Pegrum has presented.
Knowing all of this, however, didn't stop me from seeing all of the low-budget hallmarks within the movie. There were more than a couple of awkwardly placed transitions and, of course, that "independent" look, consisting of raccoon eyes and overly contrasty, dark images. We also have some sound issues here and there, but overall, I've pretty much summed up the technical aspects worth mentioning. It is worth noting however, that this indie flick was filmed well over twenty years ago - and still plays much better than many indie movies I watch today with varying budgets.
At the end of the day? "Dogstar" is not perfect, but it's pretty damn good all things considered. The story is what hooks you, so you have to really give this film a chance. I don't think anyone looking for instant visual gratification will stick around long enough to give "Dogstar" the attention it deserves... and that's a shame. Still, for those who enjoy their time with independent, low-budget movies, and favor story over a flashy gimmick, this one is for you. 3.5/5 stars.