Comfortable and Furious

Expiration (2003)


I’m sorry to say that Expiration is a model of what not to do if you’re making a very low budget film with a large number of amateurs. This one shoots for the stars and, with a professional cast, some good producers, and a budget of several million dollars, it might have gotten there. Instead, we’re left with an unsatisfying inconsistency.

Expiration reminds me of another film sent into Ruthless Reviews called Orphans and Angels. It also reminds me of a film that you’ve probably seen called Clerks. All three films have flashes of talent and moments of awkwardness. All three had very apparent limitations. Only Expiration attempts to break those limitations by overwhelming them, rather than slipping past them. You’ve got to be a genius to pull that off, and even then you’re taking a huge risk. The story of Expiration has more characters and threads than the other two films combined. But it doesn’t have more good actors or more polished writing, unfortunately. Expiration also takes itself a bit more seriously than Orphans and Angels and way more seriously than Clerks. In itself, seriousness isn’t bad, but it magnifies every false note by every actor as well as every bump in the script. Here’s the last comparison I’ll make. Imagine if Kevin Smith had tried to make Dogma as his first film, with the cast and budget of Clerks. It would have been an unwatchable train wreck.

Now, here’s the good news; Expiration is not an unwatchable train wreck. While I doubt that phrase will wind up as a blurb on the DVD, it is good news for those of us who have to watch it. The best Kevin Smith could do when he got to make Dogma with an all-star cast and a decent budget was to make a watchable train wreck.  Given similar resources, I think that Heffernan might be able to make a very good film. Expiration itself is very good at times. The best performance of the film, for example, comes from Paul Rogic. He plays Jeremy, a man aiming to commit a glorious suicide. It’s not a coincidence that during Rogic’s scenes the film really comes together and achieves great power. Rogic comes off well because the strength of his performance bolsters the other elements of the film.

Expiration is full of digression. I like a digression that occurs when the protagonist enters the home of a boy who has robbed him. We meet the parents, and it’s about what you would expect; lots of drinking and fighting. Although unspectacular, this scene fit in well with the rest of the story and was interesting on its own. It’s the kind of touch we would usually see from a good, French director. The character pauses in pursuit of his goal to interact with the family of a peripheral character. Instead of thrusting forward with the plot line, Heffernan pauses to explore a small nook in the world of his film. I didn’t care for the showier digressions. Like when two characters set out to castrate a man. Another decides whether to shoot up with some unknown substance as part of a game. Then there’s the lesbian wedding. Movies don’t need that many hooks to keep us interested. In fact, Expiration is more interesting when it focuses on more mundane realities rather than ones forced into the story. This film could have been much better if it followed the two main characters and maybe one or two side plots. Although Expiration is a decent film, I think Heffernan will no doubt make better ones in the future. Especially if he has the means to match his scope or the scope to match his means.