Rent-A-Pal (2020) – Film Review
Director: Jon Stevenson
Cast: Wil Wheaton, Brian Landis Folkins, Amy Rutledge
by @Roger Crow
If you’re a fan of David Cronenberg’s Videodrome and the episode of Phoenix Nights when Brian Potter lands a date, then you have an idea of what to expect from this bittersweet comedy drama.
The problem is it’s more bitter than sweet, it’s not very funny and the claustrophobic setting just gets on the nerves.
Set in 1990, it centres on a lonely bachelor named David (Brian Landis Folkins). He searches for an escape from the day-to-day drudgery of caring for his aging mother (Kathleen Brady).
While looking for a partner through a video dating service, he discovers an unusual VHS tape called Rent-A-Pal.
Hosted by the charismatic Andy (Wil Wheaton), the tape gives David much-needed company, compassion, and friendship.
“The idea is sound”
However, this Faustian friendship comes at a price.
From its bleak set-up to its grimmer finale, this is one of those films where you need to be made of strong stuff to make it through the overlong running time. (It’s 18 minutes too long).
Though the cast are good, and the idea is sound, it needed more oomph to sustain the interest. A flight of fantasy like Gilliam’s Brazil or Shape of Water perhaps, and okay, the budget probably didn’t allow for much in that direction, but just something to escape the grimness would have been nice.
Watch Videoman if you want to see a decent retro tale of movie-related loneliness. This one is perhaps best left in the hypothetical video bargain bin.