Published Sep 15, 2011Written, directed by and starring Toronto, ON filmmaker Ingrid Veninger, I am a Good Person / I am a Bad Person is as personal as personal filmmaking gets, in the guise of a narrative feature.
Veninger casts herself as Ruby White, an anxious, uptight mom entering middle age, who desperately wants to be seen as still relevant, with her dreadlocks and avant-garde movies about penises. Ruby brings her film, Headshots, on a mini-tour of minor European film festivals with her more mature daughter, Sara (played by Veninger's real-life daughter, Hallie Switzer), in tow.
When a frustrated Sara bails on the excursion to stay with her more bohemian cousin in Paris, Ruby soldiers on, promoting her film in the streets of Berlin with a sandwich board that claims "I am a Good Person" on one side and "I am a Bad Person" on the other, with a fake bloody bandage wrapped around her head.
If there's one thing I am a Good Person / I am a Bad Person does really well it's conveying the awkwardness of an artist presenting themselves and their artwork totally naked to an indifferent world. Ruby seems to believe in her films until she actually has to screen them, and when appearing before a mostly disinterested crowd, her anxiety is palpable.
Following her first UK screening, she is confronted with the impossible Q&A question, "do you consider yourself to be a filmmaker?" which she wilts under with a stammering response. Even more pathetically, she ends of dancing and flirting with the questioner at a club, rendering the question, the action and her film itself moot.
Unfortunately, I am a Good Person / I am a Bad Person is unable to parlay this meta-critique into a more enthralling story, as this self-doubt carries queasily into the experience of watching the actual film itself. Veninger's plot device of Ruby being constipated hammers home the obvious emotional metaphor as the barely communicative mother and daughter go their own separate ways, and the film then largely becomes an open therapy session for the frustrated artist.
The performative aspects that occur when Ruby encounters random Germans who don't know what to make of the good/bad dichotomy displayed on her sign saves the film from being an entirely solipsistic exercise, but the lack of character development and drudge-y pacing results in I am a Good Person / I am a Bad Person having difficulty transcending its audience of one. (pUNK Films)