Thursday, 23 August 2007

EIFF- Billy The Kid- Review by Emma J Lennox

Director: Jennifer Vendetti
Runtime: 85min

Billy Price knows he's 'unique' and it's a good reason to focus a camera lens on him in Jennifer Vendetti's film portrait, Billy The Kid, but what really impresses is how Vendetti has captured the universal experiences of teen love, social awkwardness and rejection.

What starts as a simple confessional style, walk and talk expose on Billy; a troubled 15 year old and 'local freak', turns into a fly on the wall documentary on the first flutters of love. Adept at saying out loud whatever comes into his head, Billy makes some entertaining points including, “I don't want to get mixed up in drugs...or politics” and “I've so far resisted kissing girls because I don't want to get slapped”. Unfortunately the laughs are lost on Billy, making him the perfect, tragic hero in a sitcom he doesn't know he's in. Indeed some moments are as excruciating as a gruesome episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, in particular when Billy falls for visually impaired Heather, who works at the local Diner. “I too suffer from a condition,” Billy tells Heather's Grandmother in complete sincerity “I have bronchitis.”

Despite his willingness to open up on camera, it does raise issues of exploitation by Vendetti, a casting director by trade, who seems to be turning her subject into an icon. With its punk aesthetic and rebel-worship title, the person behind the bundle of misfit hormones is lost behind a heavy metal soundtrack and our unerring gaze. It works on an entertaining level and there is a great feeling of elation to see Heather agree to be Billy's girlfriend, but there is an underlying uneasiness over laughing at, rather than with, a teenager with bouts of depression and a problematic past. Billy fell in love in the five days that Vendetti filmed, which is fortuitous, and she takes full advantage of the free ride. Yet what is compelling about this feature isn't in fact this confused teenager's 'uniqueness'; it's the discovery that at some point, all of us have felt a little like Billy.

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