By Mary Houlihan/For Sun-Times Media
Directed by Michael M. Bilandic (son of the former Chicago mayor), the indie film “Hellaware” takes aim at New York’s pretentious highbrow art world and the adjacent hipster scene with some sharp-edged humor and satiric storytelling.
Nate (Keith Poulson), a 25-year-old photographer eager to land his first solo show, has just witnessed his girlfriend dump him for a pig-tailed artist of questionable talent. Nate understands he must become more ruthless in his goals to succeed in the East Coast art scene; he just needs a plan.
Later, in a booze and coke-fueled evening with his best friends Bernadette (Sophia Takal) and Gauguin (Duane C. Wallace), the only voices of reason in the film, he happens upon a video by the ghoulish Young Torture Killaz, a rap group styled after Insane Clown Posse.
Nate decides to make the rural Delaware rappers (really just some kids playing in a basement) the subject of a photo essay. It’ll be authentic, a “great dialectic,” he rationalizes. “Not pre-approved by the highbrow elite.” The scene — violent, explicit and pretty dreadful music fueled by drugs and booze — offers a chance for some intimate photographs that his subjects ultimately do not want the public to see.
As he becomes more self-involved and more like the artists he once disdained, Nate meets with a French gallery owner (Gilles Decamps) who after perusing the photographs offers him a solo show. Nate exploits his new rapper friends and then tries to rationalize his actions. He has become that guy who hates everybody’s affectations but his own.
“Hellaware” doesn’t really have anything new to say about its art world subject. A slip of a film at 73 minutes, it skims over the surface of some characters, especially the rappers, who come across as simple caricature.
But Bilandic does perfectly capture the laid-back style of the twentysomethings (the lead actors all do fine work) and manages to present a fresh story of callow youth caught up in their own American odyssey. Plus he lets Nate get his comeuppance in a very funny, oddly satisfying twist ending.
Factory 25 presents a film written and directed by Michael M. Bilandic. Running time: 73 minutes. No MPAA rating. Opens Friday at the Gene Siskel Film Center.