The Pleasure of Being Robbed (Joshua Safdie, 2008): USA

Reviewed by Byron Potau.  Viewed at the Los Angeles International Film Festival

Joshua Safdie’s film, The Pleasure of Being Robbed, begins with a promising, well executed thievery of a woman’s purse by our so called heroine, Eleanore (Eleanore Hendricks), a kind of air headed kleptomaniac.  The act is perpetrated on an unsuspecting female who we immediately feel sympathy for.  We expect that we will soon feel a similar sympathy for Eleanore, but that sympathy never comes.

The film follows Eleanore as she robs unsuspecting people of anything she can get, kittens included, but shows no hint of remorse.  She simply steals without a conscience, even stealing right in front of her victims with no fear of being caught as if the victims would not mind.  The film goes nowhere, with a  large chunk of the running time taken up by an extended learning to drive sequence wherein Eleanore has stolen a car and her friend Josh (Joshua Safdie) teaches her how to drive it, eventually taking him to Boston from New York.

The camera work is excessively shaky, making the film looks as though it were shot entirely from across the street, with the exception of the learning to drive scene which is shot in backseat cam.  This effectively displaces Eleanore from her surroundings, but can also be disorienting to the audience.  The real fault of the film, however, is Eleanore.  The character simply robs without feeling or remorse and characters this selfish and despicable at least need some charm which Eleanore is completely lacking rendering her a thoroughly unlikable character from start to finish.  Reminiscent of Jerry Schatzberg films like Scarecrow and Panic in Needle Park, the film could have succeeded on the same level as these films if director Safdie had made Eleanore just a little bit likable.

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