Ben Baker is the classic male of the western society. He has no identity. He’s too old and mature for his teenage antics that involve gaming, bullshitting, and heavy alcohol, and he’s too young and immature to accept the doldrums of adulthood that involve committed relationships and responsibilities. Too adult for childish things, and too childish for obligations, both of which are worlds where Ben is incapable of being himself and expressing of his true feelings on any given topic. With a very symbolic prologue involving a blue square, director Larry Longstreth basically sets the stage for a story about growing up, moving on, and trying to find a place in a society that demands everything of you but yourself.
Ex-slacker Ben sets forth on a personal journey for self-discovery and a revelation after his girlfriend Donna dumps him one day proclaiming her need to be single. Should Ben conform and become nothing more than an amorphous blob who has to adjust his identity for certain social circles to be with her? Or should he shed every person in his life in the pursuit to get in touch with his true persona who is at heart a good person who has no real stance on his adult life? While “The Long Slow Death” is in its essence a truly funny comedy that never takes itself too seriously, Longstreth and co,. also set out to explore the personal conflict of the normal twenty-something male who has to figure issues out for themselves and decide where they stand on ideals they were taught throughout their lives. They then must decide if it’s for them and has a relevance in their own development that will eventually lead in to the middle-age. There are plenty of thought provoking and insightful discussions on the nature of being, handled with a slick sense of humor.
Particularly, the scene where Ben undermines his dad’s (Al Hudson is an absolute scene stealer as Ben’s dad who is facing a similar ordeal but is much too late in life to do anything about it) own military background declaring its unapologetic sense of conformity and uniformity. Only to fail in realizing its essentially his own way of living at the moment with two social circles beckoning for his unquestioned devotion and commitment. Is he being disloyal to the people around him if he destroys the values and ideas he had implanted in him from his childhood, or is he merely exercising the classic adage “To thine ownself be true” for better or for worse? Many people live well in to their elderly state with a sheer void of identity and personality, and Ben is faced with a world that’s unfamiliar to him, leaving behind a past that he wants no part of. The question that inevitably lingers is will Ben get off his ass and do something about this metamorphosis, or will he accept his fate and become nothing but a soulless apathetic whiny lump living up to everyone’s standards but his own?
Can anyone maintain their individuality in a world of apathy and willful ignorance? “The Long Slow Death of a Twenty Something” is a reflective work of its director Larry Longstreth who was once a fan filmmaker creating his own homages to his fan boy tropes and is now seeking to break free from the restrictions and find a way to develop in to a progressive filmmaker who can touch every audience. Which is not to say director Longstreth doesn’t stick to the elements that comprised most of his early work, staging wonderful nods to “Return of the Jedi,” “Lord of the Rings,” and “Superman” while spoofing the dual cultures that tug at Ben’s own livelihood. There’s a sheer sense of maturity and growth within this dramedy that works at exploring the inner-conflict of the normal American man looking for a sense of initiation in to manhood. It’s a society where he’s been emasculated and left without form, all the while digging deep in to his personal life and wondering where he stands and why he wants what he thinks he wants.
Is losing his true self worth the price of being accepted in to his parallel cultures? Can he live with himself once he’s been admitted in to both social circles? The performances are fantastic particularly by director Larry Longstreth as this man boy on the cusp of making a change, all the while co-star Marisa Zakaria is a standout providing a particularly stern purpose as Ben’s potential fate in a dead end relationship. The film much like the director is a work in progress, a man finding his niche in to entertainment that can touch on both worlds for adults and his inner fan boy all the while telling the tale of a man in search of the balance between two lives and eventually coming of age. Director and Writer Larry Longstreth outdoes himself with a dramedy that is a true statement of the culture we live in where we either conform with the pack or seek out our own persona at the cost of everything and everyone around us. Longstreth’s film is very much in the tradition of “Five Easy Pieces” about a society void of a true purpose and a man aimlessly looking for one.