Much of the best cinema can be called “weird.” The stuff that pushes boundaries of what the audience either expects or has the stomach for. But “weird” can be a crutch, and the bizarre can be confused for thoughtful absurdity. Motivational Growth falls into this latter camp. It’s a dark comedy, which morphs into something resembling a horror film. While the weirdness quotient of the film is high, the film often feels laboured rather than effectively absurd.
Ian Folivor (Adrian DiGiovanni) is a depressed hermit who lives in disgustingly filthy apartment, sitting all day, doing nothing but watching his old television set. When that breaks, his depression gets worse and worse until finally he starts talking to a giant growth of mold who calls himself “The Mold.” The Mold (voiced by the great Jeffrey Combs) coaches Ian to pull himself together, but also has other plans, and slowly the film evolves into something much bigger and more sinister.
Motivational Growth would probably have made an excellent short, but at feature length writer-director Don Thacker struggles, using everything in his overstuffed bag of tricks, including chapter splits and constant fourth-wall breaking, with the Ian unloading all his theories on life right to the audience. It gives the film the feeling of being long for no reason and distracts from the core ideas that actually work in the film. Among those, The Mold, with his great voice and hilarious catchphrase, “The Mold knows, Jack,” is probably the best and most developed. If only those core qualities were enough to sustain the film without the need for all the extra, piled-on “weirdness” that looks and sounds meaningful, but leads nowhere. (Corey Atad)