Holy Moly (2011) – dir. Christopher Good
I’m going to go out on a limb and guarantee you won’t see where this is going. (Language warning)
In a feature, a great twist will recontextualize everything that has come before it, adding layers to earlier scenes. A bad twist ignores or harms the scenes before it. A poorly done twist reveals that you’ve just sat through two hours of padding before being given the “real” story.
Shorts use their defining advantage to get away with twists that features cannot. In the same way a magician who takes two hours to divine a card will impress nobody, there are some tricks that should be pulled off quickly or not at all. Shorts are fine outlets for single-punchline comedies, single-scare thrillers, and single-gasp dramas. If you only have one idea, your job is to give that idea enough context to make it live outside its runtime. The Oscar-winning short (and subject of a primordial version of this feature) Schwarzfahrer is a successful example of this.
Holy Moly is the rare short that makes the ride enjoyable, subverts expectations and successfully does some recontextualization. The logic here is more than self-contained; it’s hermetically sealed. Just trying to reconcile the nature of the company that made the TV ad at the beginning with the goal at the end is hilariously futile. But within the eight minutes between these points, each exchange between our pathetic protagonist and his pushy “life coach” has new meaning post-twist. Through a seemingly innocuous joke and a not-so-unusual definition of manliness we’re being led just as blindly as our protagonist.
The late reveal of the context context takes nothing away from the enjoyment of the scenes the first time they unfold. Good’s frames and edits create gags in and of themselves. Their rapid deployment keeps us off-balance so when the reveal comes, we’re ready to be tipped. Like our schlubby protagonist, we’d be hard-pressed to explain what’s happening, but sometimes it’s rewarding to just roll with what’s being offered to you and see where it leads.