SXSW Film Festival
A Lot Of Nothing begins with a shot. Vanessa watches the news. Her anger erupts while her husband, James, weary of the world’s temperament, and perhaps with his wife’s as well, seeks to deflect. But Vanessa wants – demands – that this time something has to be done. Will a Facebook post heavy with MLK quotes settle the matter? Or should an act of violence beget a violent reciprocation?
The first 17 minutes presents a single-shot, two-man performance about confronting, channeling, and ultimately grounding that rage. The remainder of the run time runs through a series of more complicated actions, most of which are heavy with cinematic posturing. However, the entire play hits with modern-day truths that are equally complex.
Title: A Lot Of Nothing (2022) Director: Mo McRae Writer: Mo McRae // Sarah Kelly Kaplan Studio: Anonymous Content // Traction IMDb Plot: James and Vanessa are ostensibly the perfect married couple; beautiful, successful, and smart. Their lives spiral out of control when they decide to seek justice against a neighbor they saw commit a crime on the evening news. Joe Says: A hard drama with comedic-level misunderstandings about the racial divides and general mistrust that regrettably continue to exist. A Lot Of Nothing starts the conversation, asks critical questions, but cannot seem to come up with a satisfying end note.
James (Y’lan Noel) is a big bucks corporate lawyer. Vanessa (Cleopatra Coleman) is a junior executive. They both drive Teslas. Their designer apparel is Nordstrom chic. The house has been remodeled with floor-to-ceiling glass, a sweeping balcony, modern art, and a 75” 4k. They are young, beautiful, and Black, a descriptor that society is still fixated on – be it passive aggressively, or directly in the open. James is told he’s “one of the good ones.” Vanessa, meanwhile, is referred to as “you people” and when she learns that her white neighbor, a police officer (Justin Hartley), shot and killed a child, she demands answers.
A Lot of Nothing is a hard drama with comedic-level misunderstandings about the racial divides and general mistrust that regrettably continue to exist.
Written and directed by Mo McRae, A Lot of Nothing shows that James and Vanessa are not entirely wrong. Yet, neither are they completely right. James enjoys his position of power and can masterfully either feign ignorance or fume in silence. Vanessa is all righteous fury until her passions move too quickly and too far out in a place beyond where James’ smooth-talking counseling can reach. Brian, the cop, hits all the right cliches, until he doesn’t. The movie follows similarly.
Vanessa takes matters into her own hands and confronts Brian. Tensions, of course, escalate. As do actions. Maybe a little too quickly. Perhaps even unbelievably.
The 2019 movie Queen & Slim also posed a strangely-related ordeal. In that story, the titular characters are on a first date and become victims of a racist cop resulting in a difficult, if sometimes unwieldy, pursuit seeking law, justice, and just plain common decency. A Lot of Nothing pursues parallel ideals of understanding and love for your neighbor. The realization, of course, is that many neighborhoods are on two way streets.
Shot by cinematographer John Rosario, the movie spotlights James and Vanessa’s lifestyle of opulence. Those trappings soon turn dark and Rosario shows where the paint chips. Likewise, McRae goes tight on the characters, bending them all. Yet the inevitable snap is more of a flinch than an actual slap. A Lot of Nothing starts the conversation, asks critical questions, but cannot seem to come up with a satisfying end note.
And a rather fitting title.