FROM THE HEAD Movie Review
Most of us have experienced some kind of professional inertia, sticking with a job we tolerate because there’s nothing better available. While that’s often a necessary compromise for people trying to make a living, it’s not one that you should have to make at the movies. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what is demanded by From the Head, a semi-autobiographical film from writer, director, and star George Griffith, as he takes us through a shift in the life of a men’s room attendant at a New York City strip club.
As the protagonist “Shoes,” Griffith hands out towels and kvetches with customers for tips, doing his best impression of a young Charlie Sheen while limiting himself to a single pinched facial expression. Shoes has worked at the club for three years and has little motivation to change careers. Not unlike the women dancing outside, he has learned how to make the regulars happy and keeps himself entertained by running his tricks on new marks. He’s surprisingly good at getting people to open up while he watches them pee.
Based on Griffith’s real-life experiences as a bathroom attendant, From the Head is like a book of screenwriter’s notes that’s trying its hardest to be a movie. It’s a script without any sort of stakes or sense of dramatic tension – something that’s even more difficult to achieve with a film constructed around such a frustratingly passive character. Shoes is constantly telling people what he isn’t and what he won’t do – a trait pointed out by one of the strippers who visits him when the ladies’ room briefly goes out of commission.
It’s up to the revolving door of patrons to keep the proceedings fresh, a weird menagerie of masculinity that brings a host of possibilities every time one of them walks into Shoes’ domain. The varied unpredictability of these interactions is the best part of From the Head, but too often Griffith uses them as supplements to his ego: customers marvel at his intelligence, strippers lust after him, and people who don’t tip the bathroom guy are treated with a level of contempt reserved for war criminals. “Same tits, different day,” sighs Shoes, a not-so-clever aphorism that inadvertently captures the disappointing banality of From the Head‘s voyeurism. It’s a collection of small talk that fails to build to anything dramatic or interesting, and ends up just pissing the time away.