There is a grand tradition of messy but glorious films about couples who bring out the crazy in one another and end up doing all manner of bad stuff. Sadly, Pet Shop Days, a directorial debut for writer-producer Olmo Schnabel (son of Julian Schnabel), is just messy and never glorious.
Even with the built-in advantage of Willem Dafoe and Emmanuelle Seigner taking major roles (neither at their best), cameos from Peter Sarsgaard and Maribel Verdu, and a mass list of executive producers who should have known better (including Michel Franco and Martin Scorsese), this poorly paced crime drama is afflicted with terrible dialogue and weak lead performances from Jack Irv (also a co-screenwriter, along with Schnabel and Galen Core) and Dario Yazbek Bernal as two repellent, entitled brats in love.
Pet Shop Days
The Bottom Line Sex, drugs and tedium.
The opening sequence introduces us to Alejandro (Dario Yazbek Bernal, half brother of Gael Garcia Bernal), a young man in his 20s, as snuggles in bed with Karla (Maribel Verdu), both of them loathe to go downstairs for a party. The event is a birthday party for Karla’s husband — and Alejandro’s father — Castro (Jordi Molla), a big shot in a Mexican cartel, who clearly has a tricky relationship with his surly, volatile son. Parent and child are further estranged when, after an argument with Castro, Alejandro tries to run away with a family car but in the process accidentally runs over Karla.
When seen next, Alejandro has made it to New York City. There he meets Jack (Irv), a handsome but none-too-bright man also in his 20s from a wealthier family than his menial job at a Bronx pet store would suggest. Jack’s father Francis (Willem Dafoe), who seemingly does something in finance, and mother Diana (Emmanuelle Seigner) bicker constantly, much to the chagrin of Jack and his sister Lucy (Grace Brennan). Jack and Alejandro are clearly drawn to each other and party together every chance they get, going so far as hiring female prostitutes with whom they have sex before they start copulating with one another.
The film settles into a sluggish mid-section where nothing much happens while the two boys party on, buying drugs, consuming drugs, meeting more sex workers and having more sex — rinse and repeat. One escort takes revenge on the boys by leaving a huge mess of excrement all over the toilet, an action painting in brown shown in great detail here for no discernible artistic reason, apart from shock value. Meanwhile, one of Castro’s minions, Walker (Louis Cancelmi), is hunting down Alejandro, perhaps to kill him or to take him back to Mexico to reconcile with his father or maybe just to buy him food and say hi. Who knows?
Shot on grainy, underlit 16mm stock by DP Hunter Zimny, the film is clearly trying to look like some lost underground flick from the late 1970s or 80s — perhaps something by one of Andy Warhol’s acolytes or early Gregg Araki, but with none of the infectious energy or dramatic flair that made those films fun. This is not fun.
Venue: Venice Film Festival (Horizons Extra)
Cast: Jack Irv, Dario Yazbek Bernal, Willem Dafoe, Emmanuelle Seigner, Camille Rowe, Peter Sarsgaard, Maribel Verdu, Jordi Molla, Camille Rowe, Louis Cancelmi,Tal Chatterjee
Production companies: MeMo Films, Twin Productions, Tenderstories, 3 Marys Entertainment, ELA Films
Director: Olmo Schnabel
Screenwriters: Olmo Schnabel, Jack Irv, Galen Core, based on a story by Jack Irv
Producers: Galen Core, Olmo Schnabel, Alex Coco, Francesco Melzi d’Eril, Gabriele Moratti, Marie Savare De Laitre
Executive producers: Giovanni Corrado, Raffaella Viscardi, Moreno Zani, Malcom Pagani, Renato Ragosta, Livio Strazzera, Theo Niarchos, Aimone Ripa Di Meana, PJ Van Sandwijk, Peter Brant Jr., Michel Franco, Reka Posta, Jeremy O. Harris, Martin Scorsese
Co-executive producers: Alex Hughes, Riccardo Maddalosso, Eugene Kotlyarenko
Co-producers: Ludovica Quaratesi, Alex Orlovsky, Duncan Montgomery
Director of Photography: Hunter Zimny
Production designer: Madeline Sadowski
Costume designer: Bruno Dicorcia, Holly McClintock
Editor: Sophie Corra
Music: Eli Keszler
Casting: Emily Fleischer
1 hour 50 minutes