Sequin Raze is a short film from Sarah Gertrude Shapiro that follows Goldberg (Ashley Williams), a jaded producer on a reality show that's clearly meant to be The Bachelor, where she sells her soul for ratings. Anna Camp is Jessica, the runner up who very nearly cracks when the cheeseball dreamboat chooses the other blindingly blonde contestant over her, but with a herculean show of will, she keeps her emotions in check in order to give her polite final interview - the sort of polite that equals a ratings drop and zero print in the TV blogs.
Enter a battle of wills, as Goldberg and Jessica face off - one in a sequined ball gown, the other in a hoodie - over that final interview. Will Goldberg get the breakdown she needs to appease her boss? Will Jessica get to go home with her dignity intact?
The stakes shouldn't feel so high for this silly artifice, but Sequin Raze had me riveted from moment one. What's happening here goes beyond ratings and that giant rock. That reality television creates a contrivance is no news, but this subterfuge of the token "crazy bitch" who decorates every season of every show is a damaging one. Goldberg seems like a smart, cool chick, but one who knows where her bread is buttered. After learning of Jessica's tragic history (from the show psychologist played by the terrific Frances Conroy), she's disgusted with herself, but she uses what she needs to get Jessica to crack. This season needs a crazy bitch, or Goldberg has failed. Jessica doesn't get to walk away with her dignity. That's the very fine print of the contract she signed when she agreed to do the show.
Both women are fantastic in the film, a perfect match of alternating vulnerability and steel. It's clear they've had a history during the production of the show - Goldberg's been using her easy-flowing tears and confidential manner to bleed the goods out of Jessica since the beginning, saying whatever she needs to say to get that money shot. But at what cost? Goldberg seems to hate herself, and in the end, her pride is at greater risk than Jessica's.
Director Sarah Gertrude Shapiro is drawing from her own experiences working in reality television, and Sequin Raze, a fictional narrative, feels more real than any reality show I've ever seen. The movie's gripping and unflinching and far more substantial than the show it apes.
Going to SXSW? You can see Sequin Raze at the following screenings:
Sat., 3/9 - Topfer Theatre at ZACH, 11:15am
Mon., 3/11 - Rollins Theatre @ Long Center, 2:00pm
Wed., 3/13 - Vimeo Theatre, 4:30pm