Suburban drug dealer Dominic Willis tries to navigate through the COVID – 19 pandemic while carrying out his ultimate plan. Here’s is our review of writer/director Max Aguiar’s indie comedy, Veneer.
Of all the industries affected by the Coronavirus, the arts industry has taken a bigger hit than most. What is always apparent during unprecedented times though is this particular industry’s ability to find inspiration in the face of adversity. Some of the world’s greatest cultural works were in fact created during a crisis. While Max Aguiar’s Veneer is never going to be a cultural milestone, he certainly deserves credit for creating a feature film during a pandemic that looks at the way our lives have changed and been affected by the COVID outbreak.
With a patient eye and a knowing smile, Aguiar gives us a film for the times. One that, with the use of a main character who in this case just happens to be a drug dealer, manages to show us how wearing masks has now become second nature and where the streets and roads of small towns have become a lot quieter and much emptier.
Logan Diemart plays local drug dealer Dominic Willis, a small-time criminal in the Seth Rogen-Esque stoner man-child vein. Diemart also uses a voice that sounds very similar to Christian Bale’s Batman growl, it just happens to be much more polite. When we first meet him he is standing outside in nothing but his underpants. Diemart, along with his director Aguiar, has managed to create a very distinctive look to the character, with his man bun, ginger beard, gold teeth, and gold-rimmed glasses; he brings to mind a bigger boned Napoleon Dynamite. Dominic lazes around his home all day with occasional visits to the outside world, where he sells his drugs to his regular clientele.
The cinematography, also by Aguiar, is not overly complicated but works very well; some lovely aerial shots give us the feeling of looking down onto our subject, while the use of colour is quite striking, with the prime colour of yellow becoming very prominent. There are different shades of yellow everywhere throughout the film – the walls of Dominic’s home, his furniture, the clothes he wears, as well as the autumnal grass outside mixed in with some green.
The music during the film uses a mixture of vocal and instrumental tracks which all have a jazz and ballad element to them. There is also a small orchestral score that is very minimalistic in its sound but ultimately more effective for it.
Yet, despite all of the good in Veneer, it is somewhat let down by the pacing of the film, it is very slow, and nothing of any note happens in a lot of the scenes. We see Dominic doing everyday chores but they all seem to last forever. Washing up, driving, sitting, they needed to be cut right down. There is a shopping trip early on in the film that feels like it is longer than an actual shopping trip itself. That said, there is a standout moment and it is how both actor and director make Dominic and other characters move while high on cocaine. It’s a very different way of looking at it, more like an interpretive dance routine, and it’s certainly something I haven’t seen before, so kudos for that.
However, what Veneer boils down to is a Wes Anderson-type character study of a quirky guy trying to get on with his tediously boring, yet unconventional life during a pandemic, along with the cast of quirky characters whom he meets along the way. Even though the story is quite mundane in parts the unusually eccentric central performance by Logan Diemart remains consistently and hugely intriguing.