The story of fictional movies in real movies is as classic as immersive The dancing cavalier (sing in the rain) and as tongue-in-cheek self-reflective as they are prick franchise (from scream 2 further).
But such in-movie films are rarely seen from the point of view of credible cinephiles in the basement rehab cabin‘s Chloe (Lacey Jeka) and Domenic (Scott Mandel). The two lifelong friends are just regular fans — except for the fact that they’re about to kidnap their favorite actress, Amanda Campbell (Alexandra Stebbins), the star of the fictional teen movie Worldwide witch.
Written and co-directed by Portlander Kate Beacom (who shares the story with Domenic D’Andrea), rehab cabin is a daring, deconstructive comedy that premiered at the 2021 Portland International Film Festival and will be released August 2 on VOD (via Apple TV and iTunes). It’s a narrative tightrope walk, pitting obsessive cinephile charm against anxieties born of an increasingly strained friendship walk that leads to a crime that is, well, a very serious crime.
rehab cabin is the kind of film that loudly acknowledges that Beauty and the BeastStockholm Syndrome of a similar vein is the “best-case scenario” for Chloe and Domenic’s half-benevolent plan to take Campbell to rural upstate New York, dry her off, and get her career back on track.
But for all the weirdness of the premise, Chloe and Domenic’s journey will resonate with anyone whose social life is anchored in movies. The characters may be aspiring kidnappers, but they’re watching Worldwide witch (that has one goose flesh Aesthetics and the star-making ambitions of Disney Channel Originals) for the millionth time, there’s a believable bedrock to their friendship in the way they recite lines, lovingly toast plot holes, and reclaim Campbell’s work.
While Becom says Worldwide witch was basically a “lightning bolt” fabrication of the 90’s VHS core, the inspiration behind it rehab cabin stems from her childhood dream of rescuing a desperate movie star. Although they prefer not to name the actor, the struggling ex-child star archetype is instantly recognizable (think Lindsay Lohan or Amanda Bynes).
“You really connect with child actors who are growing up before you, especially when you’re around their age,” says Beacom of the film’s inspiration. “You can project yourself onto them, like, ‘Oh, that was me [also] 13 when I saw that movie.’”
The result? Fandom with the potential to turn into possessiveness. The fantasy goes something like this: while the media squeezes a once-celebrated child prodigy, salvation lies in the end-of-life celebrity finding safety and normality with her most devoted supporters.
“I think there’s a certain element of the unattainable about celebrity, but it also makes you feel extraordinary as a normal person,” says Beacom. “Because your relationship to [the actor] is so personal. It’s so strange.”
While Beacom describes this mentality as “insane,” they’ve found it to be relatively common. Part of what Beacom conceived of in co-directing the screenplay (which they first conceived at age 22, fresh out of the School of Visual Arts) was co-director Louis Legge and others in the cast and crew associated with the dream of forcing a celebrity to lead a normal life for their own good.
On screen, Lacey Jeka’s lead as Chloe encompasses both likeable, arrested development and domineering mania – both fangirl and warden. Aubrey Plaza in Ingrid goes west may be a well-known and newer indie comedy cousin, but Beacom compares Jeka’s establishment with devilishly disturbing humor to Heath Ledger’s Joker in The dark knight.
“It’s extremely hard for me not to watch her all the time,” Beacom says of Jeka, who appeared on the show search party and is now Beacom’s close friend and writing partner for several feature scripts in progress.
Even if rehab cabin is ultimately a comedic warning about detachment from reality, part of Chloe’s worldview may prove cathartic to many movie idiots.
“When you live your life like a movie, you add value in a way,” says Beacom. “I’ve spent my life wishing it were all a really wonderful montage, and then I’ve come to the conclusion that life is actually made up of all the bits and pieces between montages. But that’s what makes life and movies special.”
DO YOU SEE IT: rehab cabin is available on VOD via Apple TV and iTunes starting Tuesday, August 2nd.