THE PITY CARD

5 Stars
Year Released: 2005
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 12 minutes
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“I almost used the Holocaust to sleep with a girl.” – Simon (Simon Helberg)

Read that line twice. What feeling do you get from it? Simon’s a creep. Simon’s desperate to get laid. That’s not Simon at all, and it demonstrates the stunning, down-to-earth genius of Bob Odenkirk. He’s a rare talent who can take something so serious like the Holocaust and turn it into part of a run-of-the-mill conversation, especially between Derek (Derek Waters, who looks like John Cusack from the ‘80s and more laid-back) and Simon in discussing bad dates. When Simon starts his story of taking a girl, Tracy (Ange Billman) to the Holocaust Museum, Odenkirk anticipates the reaction. He knows the typical response and reverses it. Simon looks like any relatively decent-looking guy, walking down the street with a friend, and that’s where Odenkirk gets you. By then, you’re interested enough to see where he’s going with what usually is a weighty part of history. In our lives, it’s not a random reference in an ordinary conversation.

As it turns out, Simon’s intentions were entirely different. It looked like rain and the museum was the closest place for shelter for a while. Then, Odenkirk begins his work. Tracy is overcome by everything in the museum, and tells Simon that she’s never heard of the Holocaust, but believes something should be done about it, more people should know about it. Priceless ironic humor from Odenkirk, especially in how he directs his actors and judging from their appearances, they’ll follow Odenkirk into satirizing Dante’s “Inferno” if he ever desired. Later, Derek and Simon arrive at a party and Simon doesn’t expect to see Tracy ever again, but there she is and as her friends reveal, he’s all she’s ever talked about over the past few days. “She was so depressed, but now she’s high on life,” one of them remarks. Meanwhile, Tracy mistakes Simon for a Holocaust survivor (his grandparents were the real survivors), and Derek learns about home remedies to cure ringworm and get rid of lice, neither of them pleasant, but in Odenkirk’s universe, it’s what you’d expect to be lurking somewhere and when it does appear, it’s greeted with giggles because of Odenkirk simply allowing it to settle in the course of the conversation. No big neon sign points to the person in the form of them demonstrating a remedy right then and there, though Derek rolls through the grass in the meantime, believing it cures…something.

Odenkirk has fashioned “The Pity Card” into one reason why there are film festivals. At Sundance, there are countless film executives salvating over the prospect of brokering deals. But there are also movies and short films waiting to be discovered by those who actually come from a few blocks or thousands of miles away wanting to see what’s new in the movies, hoping for pleasure in comedy, riveting dramas, and all else anyone can hope for. “The Pity Card” answers a comedy lover’s deepest desire to laugh. For now, it’s at Sundance. Later, hopefully other worthy film festivals will follow suit and feature this too. And then HBO, or DVD. World domination to follow, as if “Mr. Show” hasn’t done enough of that already.



Posted on January 21, 2006 in Reviews by
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