Movie Review: Coverage
There’s no way to write a description of Jef Taylor‘s provocative and daring Coverage without making it sound like one of the most insensitive films imaginable. Yet, by dealing with such scandalous material, Taylor is able to touch upon a whole host of issues, on both a personal and a grand social scale with remarkable depth and insight.
The film opens with David (Michael Tisdale), a twenty-something male who has been stricken impotent by the loss of his job. Clearly, his relationship with his live-in girlfriend Lynn (Laura Heisler) is beginning to crack from their lack of intimacy. David stays home, sending out resumes and watching the news while Lynn continues to be the household’s sole breadwinner.
But their situation is significantly altered one day when, while watching the news alone, David witnesses the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001 unfold live on TV. When Lynn returns home from work, she is emotionally devastated. The couple comfort themselves on the couch and, one thing leading to another, they end up making passionate love together for the first time in a long while.
As the days drag on with no hope in sight for David to get a new job, he becomes obsessed with the TV coverage of the 9/11 tragedy that continue to air non-stop. While becoming to addicted to the news, David develops another secret, perverted addiction. The only way he can get an erection and make love to Lynn is when he can see or hear the replaying of the World Trade Center crumbling.
Yes, Taylor has re-defined and made literal the term “disaster porn.”
At first, Lynn is enthralled by her boyfriend’s newfound confidence and amour. However, she is completely oblivious as to what’s behind David’s big change. As she herself becomes bored by the repetitive news images, she begins turning the TV off, sending David into a panic. He’s left to recording the day’s news, then replaying it at night after Lynn is asleep so he can pleasure himself into oblivion.
Despite this outrageous scenario, the film’s true strength is how subtly Taylor develops his story. Much of the story is propelled just through David and Lynn’s facial expressions: Her concerned looks hoping her boyfriend gets back on his feet soon; his increasing desperation as she turns off the TVs in the house.
Through the somewhat minimal dialogue and the excellent acting on Tisdale and Heisler’s part, we understand that this is a couple that has been together for a long time and thus the audience is able to read them as much as they are able to read each other. Lynn’s obliviousness to her partner’s new perversion is due just to the utter incomprehensibility that one could be turned on romantically by such emotionally devastating news footage.
Also, although Coverage revolves entirely around one character being completely obsessed with 9/11 footage, Taylor only shows that footage itself to the audience minimally, thus keeping his film a commentary on the exploitative nature of the mainstream media without actually being exploitative itself. We only know what David is getting off on through the audio of the news items that he’s watching as the film camera is rarely positioned at the TV screen.
And it was a very smart move to make David emotionally compromised right at the beginning of the film. The film does, of course, take place in 2001, but having David lose his masculinity along with his job still strongly resonates due to the rough economic situation that’s been happening in the country the past few years. Plus, Taylor makes it very clear that David’s initial libido re-invigoration is not caused directly by the 9/11 coverage, but is an unfortunate side effect of a particular set of circumstances.
Coverage is a very emotionally complex short film. It runs about 30 minutes into which is packed a lot of issues and concerns, from the way the mainstream media transforms tragedy into entertainment to discovering that the love of your life has a hideous, freakish sexual addiction. It’s a real accomplishment that Taylor has taken a potentially offensive subject and has presented it with such incredible insight and sensitivity.
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