Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Little Gift in a Small Package: "Stocking Stuffers" (2001)



The title of this short film can refer to both a woman's leg, or the gift inside a stocking. Writer/director Angel Connell plays with words here, telling us it is both.

Although clocking in at under eight minutes, the film is divided into two parts. The first part begins with a graphic that reads "Consuming the Commodities of the Heart," and show us that awkward end-of-the-date moment when an unnamed man (Eric Scheiner) wants a little "dessert" from an unnamed woman (Christy Scott-Chapman). The woman has her pantyhosed legs in the man's lap, and the two deliver massive amounts of pun laden dialogue mostly centering around the vital commodity of food.

The second part of the film reverses the title of the first part: "The Heartfelt Commodification of Consumption." It contains three fake TV commercials for Sheek pantyhose (available in fine lingerie stores everywhere). Scott-Cashman is a blonde wigged spokeswoman wearing nothing but the pantyhose. Scheiner returns as a guy telling the viewer about the pantyhose while two hose-clad feet playfully nuzzle his face. Both ads tell the viewer that women should wear Sheek pantyhose, or nothing at all. The third ad has the man and woman nude in bed together, with the Sheek ad line changed. Why go nude when you can wear Sheek?

It took a couple of viewings of the film for me to appreciate what Connell was doing. The two parts could be interchanged, the first part's female character having seen the Sheek ads, and demanding her body be seen as more than just a product. The second part of the film shows how just a switch of a few words can change the entire meaning of a sentence, and how intelligent the viewing public is (or thinks it is).

The only two actors in the film are fine. Often, a short film serves as a long preview for a full-length feature that will get financing someday, but Connell's effort does not feel that way. He says what needs to be said without overstaying his welcome or underwhelming the audience with dumbed down dialogue or obvious "here's what this means" statements. Perry Iannone's musical score irritated the hell out of me at first, but I came to like its build in the first part.

"Stocking Stuffers" is billed as a thinking person's film. What each person gets out of it may vary, but I found that whatever the outcome, it still works. (* * * *) out of five stars.