A truly cinematic moment stitches character and audience together. They are seamless, silent and often unexpected. All great short films have at least one, and I Feel Stupid’s ending demonstrates it to marvelous effect.
The film is a nuanced and sharp-witted look at small-town teenage boredom and the unexpected cruelties it yields. Our main character is Lein, an inexperienced 15 year-old, who spends her days with her platonic friend Robby and her pet pigeons. But everything changes when her older friend Amber comes for a visit.
Pastreich is a born director; her craft here is polished to the point of invisibility. This is a filmmaker who understands that the looks between dialogue are far more important than the dialogue itself. Just one example; in a scene about five minutes into the film, we see Robby give a curious look to Amber. It’s a subtle shift of interest, one that gives birth to the main conflict of the film. It’s the kind of detail too often overlooked by emerging filmmakers, but which perfectly captures a shifting power dynamic.
This confident direction is backed by a stellar team of collaborators. I Feel Stupid’s script is written by Ana Lily Amirpour, best known as the director of the Sundance breakout A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Its seamless transitions come from AGWHAAN’s editor Alex O’Flinn. Finally, its elegant photography was done by Dagmar Weaver Madsen, who shot the SXSW breakout hit 10,000 KM. Together with Pastreich they weave the subtle magic that courses through the piece.
Perhaps most impressive for this reviewer is the film’s clear understanding of teenage power dynamics. In an insecure teenage world, Amber’s unforced confidence makes her a minor deity. She will undoubtedly cast Lein off at the next possible opportunity, but man, doesn’t it feel good to be loved by the cool kid, if only for a little bit?
Pastreich is currently hard at work on her first feature length documentary Untitled Pigeon Project (formerly Birdmen), which follows three men in south central Los Angeles and their passion for Pigeons. The project was inspired by her work on I Feel Stupid, and was a participant in the Film Independent Documentary Lab.