Admission time: whenever I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed, I often google a picture of the Hubble Telescope—just that image of a tiny little piece of insignificant space junk drifting aimlessly against the enormity of the cosmos, somehow, makes me feel better. After all, in the grand scheme of things, all my worries—my hesitations, my fears—they don’t really mean anything. And, well, that nothingness is oddly comforting.
It’s somewhat basic existentialism 101, but seeing one’s perspective in the larger spectrum can be a sobering thing. And, in the case of Katy (Mary Holland), the hero of Patrick Muhlberger’s The Katy Universe, it can result in a drunken, coked-up bender featuring telekinetic superpowers. After all, if nothing matters, then you’re no longer constrained by the confines of worldly limitations and anything is possible.
Yes, The Katy Universe is just as much fun as that above description sounds. And, Muhlbergher, a Short of the Week favorite ever since we saw his 2016 film Pop Music, has real verve as a filmmaker. He takes what on paper could be a relatively simple monologue and just builds on the craziness, expanding the visual “world” of the film as he goes. While it only takes place on a single set (a very well production-designed set, mind you), the creative way in which he explores and expands the physical space of the film is impressive—practically virtuosic. Oh, and did I mention it’s funny? Never has a panic attack been this much of a joy to watch.
The film is anchored by Holland’s performance. She’s a true gem, taking what is essentially a basic white girl millennial, but still making her relatable and empathetic. In that sense, the true magic trick is here how Muhlberger is dealing with heavy, potentially depressing (and pat) topics in a way that’s just damn entertaining. Yes, the meaningless of our own existence is terrifying, but he someone finds the humor in our own insignificance. The punchlines are perfectly timed. Not to mention, Muhlberger also subtly manages to put his own spin on the sci-fi VFX teaser that has proliferated its way throughout Hollywood. Universe shows that he can handle spectacle, but the tone never falls into a blackhole of its own self-seriousness. He’s making the slick “pitch short” on his own terms.
As Muhlberger quips:
“The movie talks about a lot of serious things in a lot of silly ways, but it’s ultimately hopeful and ideally, comforting. Plus, if enough people watch it then maybe, MAYBE Katy can join the Marvel Universe.”
Muhlberger already has a television show pitch/pilot/bible based on the aforementioned Pop Music. He’s also writing a feature and working on a slew of other interesting projects. Needless to say, his own personal Muhlberger Universe is a flurry of creative activity.