The Casserole Club takes a look into the seemingly pristine lives of a group of 1960’s suburbanite housewives and their fastidiously crafted appearances, apparently happy marriages, and jovial close-knit group aesthetic and in doing so reveals that things are rarely what they seem. The phrase ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’ has nothing on these women as they take almost every opportunity to snipe and one-up each other and undermine their relationships, marriages, and stability.
A dinner party casserole competition forms the basis of group interactions which quickly devolve into heavy drinking and eventually a sexually charged, alcohol fuelled swapping of partners – with the winner of the best casserole long forgotten. Awakening the next morning the cast are shocked, but for the sake of keeping up appearances it’s business as usual, alarmingly so. However once the initial confusion/fear/disgust at their actions (for some anyway, others are much less bothered) they soon segue into accepting this as a regular and natural sequence of events to distract from the unhappiness and dissatisfaction that is each couples respective lives and relationships.
The Casserole Club starts off with fairly insipid characters whose thinly veiled contempt/jealousy for each other is masked by their insistence that they are friends. Similarly the film has a mid range production value and feels very digital, which is slightly counterintuitive to the retro 60’s vibe, but the colours do pop onscreen and evoke the style of the time. However, as the movie progresses the various characters (slut, cougar, prude, artist/poet, average, misogynist, closet homosexual, nice guy, etc etc) all become infinitely more annoying as their own self-loathing oozes from the screen – they might be partying together but it’s a party of desperation that reeks of repression. Almost every scene is filled with a palpable tension, which is some respects makes it successful, however it doesn’t make it easy or fun to watch.
Former Backstreet Boy Kevin Scott Richardson is one of the key performances as the truly loathsome (and self-loathing to the point of self abuse) Conrad, who’s character seems to be channeling a 1960’s version of Christian Grey, mistreating almost everyone in the film for the sake of his own self-destructive whims. Daniela Sea also does a marvellous job of playing the poet Jerome, who is more comfortable with her sexuality than most of the other women (except one, Florence played by Pleasant Gehman, whose brash openness and garish personality ironically makes her the only bearable character) but that ultimately proves to have a fatal effect on her less than stable husband. Unfortunately the rest of the cast pale into insignificance with some rather uninspired performances. Near constant scenes of intoxication, sexual experimentation, and more than a little swearing usually entertain me (a stand-out scene early on discusses the semantics and satisfaction of the word cunt is both pretentious and also probably the best part of the script), however unfortunately the similarly near constant levels of angst, tension, and frankly tedious characters make the film a chore to sit through.
In some ways I respected the attempt to present a gritty and unpleasant underbelly to the often polished veneer that is depicted in the stereotypical 60’s suburban home, however it would be lying to say that the languid pace, uncomfortable dialogue, uneven performances, and sometimes cringeworthy behaviour of the characters (note: jelly is not a sexy food…) make The Casserole Cluba good film. The ending, indeed the majority of the movie, takes itself far too seriously considering the poppy bubblegum nature of the opening and chances are that by the end you will be left (much like the majority of the characters) with a bit of an empty, unsatisfied feeling.
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