SXSW 2017 Review: A Bad Idea Gone Wrong is a Delightfully Comedic Heist Film
At each film festival I attend, I seek out small independent films looking for a pleasant surprise that stands out among the rest. While a lot of the indie films chosen to be part of the SXSW 2017 line-up have been decent films, most of them have been such downers. After seeing well over fifteen films tackling dark subject matters, I was looking to find a light-hearted indie comedy at the festival. After talking with my friend, Scott Mantz, he highly recommended that I check out a little film called A Bad Idea Gone Wrong playing at the fest. I quickly added the film to my SXSW schedule and was able to attend its final screening of the festival.
A Bad Idea Gone Wrong marks the feature-length film debut of writer/director Jason Headley. The film follows Leo (Will Rogers) and Marlon (Matt Jones), two friends in need of some quick cash. Leo convinces Marlon while at breakfast that their best plan of attack is to rob a local residence. Once inside, Marlon accidently sets the alarm causing Leo and himself to become prisoners in a strangers’ home. While searching for things to steal, Leo and Marlon discover that they aren’t alone in the house either. They quickly discover that a housesitter named Darcy (Eleanore Pienta) is looking over the house while the owners are away. Now, Leo and Marlon must form a new plan to get Darcy to assist them in escaping the home without getting caught.
What a delightful and charming little film! This is the type of independent film that I wish more indie films would strive to be like. I completely understand that most indie filmmakers set out to make a statement and by doing so they tackle some pretty dark subject matters. However, it is so refreshing to see a smart independent comedy at a film festival. A Bad Idea Gone Wrong is a very small film with only two locations and three actors but writer/director Jason Headley uses all of it to his advantage.
The story opens up at a diner where we are introduced to Leo and Marlon. These guys are your typical everyday type dudes. They are planning a robbery, not because they want to cause harm but because they are strapped for cash. We get to learn about their dynamic very early on and there is a lot of character development between the two from the very beginning. By the film’s midway point, the audience has a complete grasp on each characters motivation and is supportive of their actions.
While this could have easily been a tale of two friends trying to rob a house, I found the character of Darcy being part of the story to be such a highlight. I feel like Darcy added a whole another layer to the film, which in return gave it a better-rounded structure. This is a hard film to discuss without giving things away but I loved how Headley developed the relationships between these three characters and how each of them evolved over the course of just 80 minutes.
Jason Headley shows a lot of promise as a first time director. He has a great eye and really made great use of a single setting. In a lot of ways, the house that Leo, Marlon, and Darcy are stuck in becomes a character in itself. They go from room to room and things happen in each room. It feels like Headley knew exactly what he was going for and managed to achieve what he wanted from his story with such ease.
Speaking of story, the film is well-written, comedic, and unique. It blurs the lines of a crime drama meets buddy comedy. The dialogue is sharp and witty. There are several great one-liners throughout the film that legitimately made me laugh out loud. The story itself is simple but that is the reason why it works as well as it does. Headley is well aware that his film is a three-person character study and he writes these characters so differently from one another that you can’t help but root for them to succeed.
Matt Jones, Will Rogers, and Eleanore Pienta are somewhat established actors who I have seen in several films and television shows prior to this film. However, I do feel they have never shined as brightly as they do in A Bad Idea Gone Wrong. These actors just embrace the material and make it their own. This is the type of film that relies very heavily on performances and all of three bring their A-game to the project. As I said earlier, it is hard not to connect with each one of their characters in some way. They make each of their roles interesting, comedic, and lovable. You can’t help but fall in love with Leo, Marlon, and Darcy.
All in all, A Bad Idea Gone Wrong is a wonderful surprise and has easily become one of my favorite films to premiere at SXSW 2017. This is a perfect example of how you can make a smart character-driven comedy with very little money. Writer/Director Jason Headley has now been added to my filmmakers to keep an eye on list and I cannot wait to see what he does next. If you get an opportunity to see this film, I highly recommend checking it out.
Scott “Movie Man” Menzel’s rating for A Bad Idea Gone Wrong is an 8.5 out of 10