In Eadward Stock's stunning directorial debut, a meaningless fling soon turns into something more sinister - but not in the way you might think - and drives his name straight onto the 'one to watch' list.
Intertexuality has always been common in the most brilliant of films, A Bout de Souffle, Austin Powers, even (or perhaps most obviously) Shrek, all use intertexuality to the best of their abilities. And for a good reason too, its ability to supplement the film, nod to its influences, or provide a backdrop for the film’s context; intertexuality is a clever, easy way to provide a film’s context and emphasise a dissociative effect. But no film has ever utilised it more than Palace of Fun which not only plucks out some hefty nods to The Talented Mr Ripley but also to older, classic films like Some Like It Hot. In a discussion about the film, writers Eadward Stocks and George Stocks claimed this was to showcase their love of classic cinema, but as a whole it also elevates the film into residing as a clever construction of thrills, action, and some expertly crafted sequences that idle on the edge of agonizingly uncomfortable – something which remains long after the credits roll.
Starring the incredibly talented George Stocks, Andrew Mullan and Phoebe Naughton, Palace of Fun follows Finn as he embarks on a romantic odyssey with Lily, spending the weekend at her parent’s mansion. The weekend is bought to a screeching halt after being swiftly interrupted by Lily’s somewhat eccentric brother Jamie, who ‘discovers’ (does a quick facebook search) Finn’s ‘devastating’ secret (he stole some kid’s bag) and bribes him into increasingly ‘uncomfortable’ acts (bordering on rape).
With a relatively simple premise, it’s easy to let characters shine through, but if the script isn’t strong, then often those characters can melt into an already bland background – which is exactly what Palace of Fun stays far, far away from doing. Whilst all three central characters have ranging levels of interest, it’s hard to ignore the intrigue Jamie’s character offers from the offset, portrayed with creativity and an impossible to ignore talent by George Stocks, who also co-wrote the film’s script. Character chemistry also runs through the film’s long list of strengths, and whilst Lily and Finn’s relationship begins to idle on the edge of mundanity at a handful of points, Jamie’s relationships with both Finn and Lily is nothing short of remarkable, especially for such an inexperienced man of acting. One scene involving a spot of drunken dancing followed by an impersonation of a certain deceiving sequence from Some Like It Hot – which also, inevitably involves a certain level of cross-dressing – is honestly something to behold. It allows character chemistry to take hold and gleam through the occasional cracks in the film’s story arc, without even having much of original, if not any, dialogue – a true hallmark of pure acting talent woven tightly with a solid script.
But, unfortunately, as with a great deal of independent films, Palace of Fun runs out of steam as it nears the end of its third act, taking an easy, incredibly predictable way out before ending as quickly as the mystery of Finn’s real identity was dropped an hour and a half earlier. This is a shame, because the shock-factor of the film’s climax then dissipates into a more ‘well what the hell was that’ kind of vibe, the shock being that the film ended there rather than of the event that ended it in the first place. Luckily, such a shit conclusion takes only two minutes to make itself known – not nearly enough time to have much of an impact on the rest of the film, and as such the film stands, unwavering, as one of the most creative and inventive films of this year’s Raindance – if not standing slightly in the shadows of its influences.
Palace of Fun, directed by Eadward Stocks, is being shown as part of the 2016 Raindance Film Festival. Further information about the festival including screening times and ticket information can be found here.