Thursday, September 10, 2020

It starts creepy but goes off the rails

More waiting game than fully realized movie, Rent-a-Pal doesn't get enough out of its premise to kick it into the positive column. The story centers on David (Brian Landis Folkins), a character who feels awfully familiar. David lives in his demented mother's basement, has no social life and seems so accustomed to his role as Mom's caregiver that he no longer realizes how miserable he is. In an attempt to break through his loneliness, David has joined Video Rendezvous, a dating service that distributes VHS tapes. (Set in Denver, the film takes place during the '90s.) Not surprisingly, women aren't particularly  interested in a guy who takes care of a rancorous mother (Kathleen Brady), even if David displays a degree of sincerity that makes him less of movie cliche. On a visit to the offices of the dating service, David finds a videotape in a bin of remainders. The Rent-a-Pal video David buys features a guy named Andy (Wil Wheaton), an artificial bro who offers male companionship. As the relationship between David and his new "friend" develops, the movie leaves us doing a bit of thumb twiddling: We await what we're sure will be David's explosion. Tension grows when David finally meets someone. Amy Rutledge's Lisa, a professional caregiver, seems ideally suited for David. Lisa doesn't disparage David for tending to his Mom but appreciates his kindness and patience. Clearly, Andy won't be pleased about his pal's newfound companion. All of this leads to a predictably violent conclusion that shatters whatever credibility director Jon Stevenson has established as the movie's hand grows heavier and heavier.

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