By Richard Reitzfeld
As far as self-aware indie films go, Red Flag is decent at best. Taken as an overall work of film, it’s hovering limply above piss poor. Barring one or two saving graces, Red Flag is a bleak and uninspired glimpse at one man’s solipsistic journey through life, love, and career.
Alex (Girls‘ Alex Karpovsky), our protagonist, is a semi-successful filmmaker about to embark on a promotional tour for one of his films in the immediate wake of a breakup with his longtime girlfriend. He travels from small town to small town speaking about his film, signing and selling DVDs and staying in dreary motels. At one of his screenings he encounters a borderline obsessive fan, River (Jennifer Prediger), who he winds up sleeping with. In a fit of post-coital clarity, he realizes that she’s a bit of a nut and unceremoniously bids her farewell.
The next day, he receives a phone call from his friend, Henry (Onur Tukel), who asks if he can join Alex on tour. At the subsequent screening in the next town, Alex notices that River has followed him and Henry and is expecting to continue her “relationship” with Alex. Understandably freaked out, Alex tells her he’s not interested, but Henry, after getting a look at the goods, convinces Alex to invite her for a drink with the two of them.
Henry falls for River and the three continue the tour as a group. At a pre-Mardi Gras festival in Louisiana, Alex has an epiphany about his previous relationship and calls his ex to beg her to fly to meet him so he can propose to her. She comes and kind of accepts but also kind of rejects Alex’s supremely awkward proposal. Immediately afterward, she finds out about Alex and River, as does Henry, who had been in the dark about the tryst. The four of them fight and split up and Alex unsuccessfully attempts to commit suicide that night. He survives and a kind maid gives him a hug after finding his suicide note. Roll credits.
The character of Alex, played by the writer and director of the film, while intended to be charmingly self-involved, comes off as flat and a little annoying. Come to think of it, so do both the writing and the direction overall. While some of the film’s quirks showed promise, or even worked on some level, on the whole Red Flag represents a fumbled attempt at comedic tragedy.
However, the bleak subject matter and the bleaker attempt at depicting it aside, the characters of River and Henry are both a welcome breath of fresh air juxtaposed to Karpovsky’s suffocating presence. That’s not to say that either performance was particularly great in any way, but both were pleasant, and I’d even go so far as to say charming at times.
Red Flag is a somewhat bizarre animal, as its attempts at self-awareness are almost painfully unaware. For a second I thought this was intended, and I was watching some next-level meta-transcendent genius film wizard at work, but then I realized that even if that was the intent, crap is still crap, even if there’s caviar in it.
- Starring: Alex Karpovsky
- Directed by: Alex Karpovsky
- Running Time: 85 minutes
- Genre: Drama, Comedy