Dim The Fluorescents is a high-wattage feature debut

DIM THE FLUORESCENTS (Daniel Warth). 128 minutes. Opens Friday (December 8). See listing. Rating: NNNN

I saw Daniel Warth’s Dim The Fluorescents nearly a full year ago, before it went to the Slamdance Film Festival in January. I’ve been itching to talk about it ever since, and to tell people to go and see it. 

Part workplace comedy, part suffering-artist psychodrama, Daniel Warth’s film is an awfully hard picture to quantify, but then why should you have to put a label on it? Whatever form it takes, this droll, spiky delight is one of the most enjoyable feature debuts in a long time. 

Stage performers Claire Armstrong and Naomi Skwarna make their feature debuts as Audrey and Lillian, Toronto roommates who mount corporate-training seminars and approach each new playlet as if they were staging Ibsen. You can snicker at their commitment, but you have to admire the result: every new performance is a harrowing descent into the human cost of data maintenance or boundary awareness.

Mashing up Wes Anderson’s perfectionist visuals with John Cassavetes’s emotional intelligence, Warth and co-writer Miles Barstead build a world around these characters that’s just as specific and fascinating, elegantly establishing Audrey and Lillian’s push-and-pull dynamic and then throwing an escalating series of complications at them, like a client insisting his teenage niece be part of their next production. Armstrong and Skwarna make an amazing double act, and Chet Tilokani’s camera loves them both. 

I could write another thousand words about why I love Dim The Fluorescents, but it’s the kind of thing you need to see for yourself – a singular, fully engaged cinematic work and a cockeyed delight. Just go.

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