2018 Midwest Independent Film Festival selection


The Cold War of the second half of the 20th century is often defined as a time period of geopolitical tension with no large-scale fighting.  Break the “geopolitical” word up and you have a conflict about ideals and territory. With every intended joke possible, romantic relationships have some of the very same perils.  Aping those historical stakes with a clever play on multiple meanings, J. Wilder Konshak’s comical indie film carries a perfect title and one unlucky relationship that turns from amorous to afflicted in the split-second of a sneeze.  Seek this gem out on VOD on April 6th.

Textbook Adulthood’s Madeline Walter leads as Maggie Berry.  She’s a plentifully particular woman who works as a hospital nurse with a snooty side alongside her good friend Dr. Everett Galoup (Antoine McKay, recently of Rogers Park).  She has just moved in with her cuddly beau Jon Chupp (Michael Blaiklock of Don’t Trust the B---- in Apartment 23), a web developer of sorts.  Unpacking and hitching their wagons together stands as a huge step for their modern yuppie lifestyle.  They begin to plan a housewarming party, a meddlesome task Dr. Galoup’s domineering wife Ollie (TV actress Gail Rastorfer) would love to take care of with her pep talks and busty confidence.

LESSON #1: COHABITATION BRINGS OUT ALL THE DIFFERENCES-- You never know a person until you live with them.  Anyone can look great on a date and squeak through an overnight sleepover or two.  It’s when the other person has taken root and is inescapable that the quirks, ticks, and weird habits come out.  Personal space disappears. The goals are to be flexible and open to communication and compromise. Be nice, no matter how hard it is.

Niceties, for that matter, start strong and then get trampled on when Miss “I Don’t Get Sick” contracts the rumored “raccoon flu” epidemic going around their area and social circles.  Maggie becomes a puking mess and begins to take Jon down with her, first by being a puppyish burden and second as a fellow ill person himself.

LESSON #2: WHEN YOU LIVE TOGETHER, ILLNESSES BECOME ONE MORE SHARED EXPERIENCE-- The blissful dreams are what you look forward to when you and your significant other move in together.  Shared meals and open freedom of bedroom extracurricular activities are always the draws. Folks forget the not-so-hot moments that come with life.  What one person gets, another can and will. When young couples ask “do we have to share absolutely everything,” the answer is yes, even the germs.

The secondary shared experience that’s supposed to come to Maggie and Jon is taking care of each other.  Told throughout the film by titled chapters named after the stages of sickness, our formerly cute young lovers can’t get that right.  Maggie, as a nurse, goes the OTC pharmaceutical route while the greener Jon dives into holistic home remedies. Neither find relief for their symptoms or each other.

LESSON #3: ILLNESSES CAN DERAIL ANYONE-- As the cool kids say, the struggle is real.  Colds suck, plain and simple. It doesn’t matter how tough, resistant, or resilient you are, a strong enough ailment can alter your every trait.  The dulled senses, fevered thoughts and dreams, and banged up intestinal plumbing all do a number. From personal hygiene integrity and a sex life to mental sharpness and behavioral patience, everything slips with a sickness.

In Cold War, Jon and Maggie’s misery is our delight and played for side-splitting laughs.  The level of vomit in the film is as voluminous as the dark humor. This comedy is the brainchild of writer J. Wilder Konschak making his feature-length screenplay and co-directing debut with Stirling MacLaughlin.  His created scenarios and pitfalls are bracingly honest for both their entertaining embarrassment and sinister believability.

Cold War plays smart with its narrative development where wit wins over gross-out humor every time.  Konschak’s own playful editing stitches together the crisp shooting of Mercury in Retrograde’s Jason Chiu.  Their combined work presents the back-and-forth perspectives and shared calamities with exacting measurement for which scenes need to move and which need to linger for effect.  Oppositional to the visual smoothness, one small downside is the tonal darkness provided by Casey Trela’s instrumental music which lingers and hits too grimly to muddle the comedic energy at times.  

Throw up, well out, all the puns.  You’ll holler and hurl, snicker and spew, and gag and giggle.  Rastorfer is a scene-stealing and riotously hilarious hoot. At the center, Walter and Blaiklock sell their growing delirium and distress with committed performances that leave tongues out of cheeks to match the frankness.  Their approachable characters will have viewing couples watching the film elbowing their partners in the ribs and pointing fingers of assignment with a few “that is so you” barbs.

LESSON #4: CAN YOU LOVE THE WORST VERSION OF YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER?-- Take the annoyances of Lesson #1 and the ugliness of #2 and #3, and you have created a relationship test everyone who eventually sticks together will have to go through likely more than once.  If you can still manage to tolerate, sympathize, and even love that bawling and uncomfortable disaster at their lowest, when their snuggles come with snot and their kisses taste like sewage, and they can do the same for you, then can then you’ve got a keeper.