Joshua Reviews Andrew Neel’s King Kelly [Theatrical Review]

Very few genres have become as popular and mainstream as the ‘found footage’ film. Originally used as a vehicle for horror films, dramas like this year’s End Of Watch have attempted to take the neo-realism found in films as iconic as Roberto Rossellini’s Rome, Open City and blend it with this generation’s penchant for recording everyday life.

And then there is King Kelly. Helmed by Andrew Neel, the latest entrant into the found footage world may very well be the final nail in the genre’s collective coffin. And not for lack of quality, but for the fact that frankly, there isn’t much else the genre has left to say with this picture now in the world.

An inherent meditation on this, the YouTube generation, and its egomaniacal sense of self-importance, King Kelly follows the story of a young girl who is looking to break out online. With her own website about to launch, she is on the brink of becoming an adult superstar, currently relegated to doing stripteases, and often times far more, for paying customers online. However, when her car is taken by her ex-main squeeze, she spends one intense and drug-fueled evening attempting to get it, and its trunk’s illicit contents, back. Made almost entirely from camera-phone footage, Kelly is a histrionic, yet introspective, look at a generation unable to turn off the collective camera for even one single moment.

Neel, best known for the small documentary Alice Neel, is the big star here. While the footage and overall aesthetic isn’t anything all that new to the found footage game, its inherent kinetic energy is. Used to perfection as both an artistic vehicle and also an intellectual one, there are several flights of fancy here, be it our lead turning the camera on herself at her lowest moments, or even the idea of us watching as the phone which is shooting this footage focuses on another phone as our lead’s true career is revealed on Facebook. It is within these moments of inventiveness that the film truly thrives, and becomes something far more visceral and important than just another low budget indie using the found footage gimmick as an out to mask budgetary constraints.

Featuring a relatively unknown cast, there is admittedly a roughness around the edges of this film, but it’s for the better. Louisa Krause is great here as our titular heroine. Completely over the top and melodramatic, every moment of this young woman’s life is a life or death disaster waiting to happen, ranging from a car being stolen to the smallest of arguments with family or friends. Embodied perfectly within this hyper-dramatic performance, Krause truly makes this film far more of a generational document than just a cartoonish bit of melodrama. The supporting cast is solid as well, led by Libby Woodbridge and Roderick Hill, the two biggest players in what is one of the most intriguing final acts you’ll find in any indie film this year.

At moments almost a tad too over the top and bombastic, King Kelly will turn away many able to jive with the film’s youthful energy and generational melodrama, but as a YouTube generation-focused bit of neorealism, this may very well be the best found footage film released to date. Using the medium as an intellectual vehicle rather than an out for cheap thrills or a scapegoat for low production values, King Kelly ambles off its path occasionally, but when it strikes the right notes, its music is loud, and beautiful.