You know how when you’re wanting to go to the movie theater and you look up all the films that are showing and there are alway at least three that you’ve never heard of, let alone have any interest in seeing? Well, good news! I’ve seen those movies. I spend most of my theater experiences in art house theaters watching those movies that you’ve never heard of and then never watch. Yeah, I’m that hipster asshole. My goal with this is to spread information out about these films, that way you can decide one of the following. “That actually sounds pretty cool! I want to see that now!” or “Man, I’m glad I decided to go see the new superhero movie!”. So without further ado, here is my article and review of Spa Night.
This is probably a prime example of a film you have never heard of. I can figure this out because I had never heard of this film before and if I haven’t heard of a film, you know it’s obscure. The reasoning behind watching and in part reviewing this film is because I have recently been obsessed with the Independent Spirit Awards. Which I can describe most accurately as the Oscars cousin that almost everyone says “hello” to at the family reunion but no one really hangs out with because the Independent Spirit Awards are off doing their own thing, typically doing things that no one else is really comfortable with to the point of most people thinking “Woah! Independent Spirit Awards! Cool it with all of the weird sex stuff!” But then the Independent Spirit Awards are like “Oh you don’t like all of the weird sex stuff? What about fascism and more sex? Are you okay with fascism and more sex?” And then everyone at the reunion is like “You see! This is why no one watches you Independent Spirit Awards! It’s either Fascism or Sex with you!”
Spa Night is an independent film taking place in Koreatown in Los Angeles. Spa Night follows a young second generation Korean man who attempts to raise his grades so he can attend a good college, while also balancing his new found experimentation with homosexuality as he begins working at a Korean Mens Spa. The reason why I choose this film is because it was nominated for the John Cassavettes Award at the Independent Spirt Awards, meaning best film made for under 500 thousand dollars.
With a small budget, I won’t make any complaints about the film with that regard. I understand that making a movie is extremely expensive and is almost impossible to get funding for. So I won’t be like “They should have done more!” Which isn’t a full complaint with the film. It is a thought, but it won’t be the sole focus of the review as that wouldn’t be fair. But before you go into this film, understand that this is a very low budget film. So you are not going to get any big stunts or set pieces or anything that will cost money. Also, understand that shouldn’t be a requirement for a film.
I’ll start with the acting, which is fine. There really isn’t anything worth noting in the film in regards to the acting. I’m sure the actor are fairly unexperienced or at least haven’t done much on this large of a scale. The main actor is fine, but at the same time, he doesn’t do much. He is quiet almost the entire film and doesn’t do much in terms of facial expression. Which becomes a problem because most of the film is the character of David reacting to seeing things, such as male genitals which there is an abundance of in this film. So when I’d say half of the film is David looking and being intrigued or shocked by something, maybe have a bit more of an expression than “Oh, neat.” Most of the younger actors are pretty mediocre. But the two who place David’s parents are pretty good. They aren’t anything spectacular, but they are better than most of the actors around them.
The true problem the film has is that the film is paced god awfully. And what makes this worse is that the marketing and big selling points of this film, being the exploration of sexuality within a men’s spa, are the most boring parts of the entire film. It feels similar to watching Fifty Shades of Grey, which sounds like an extreme but it isn’t as bad. When watching Fifty Shades of Grey, the only thing worth really watching is the stupid and awful dialogue, the sex scenes are really just fluff that is more boring than you would imagine. A similar problem happens here but to a lesser extent. First of all, the spa scenes don’t happen until around the forty-five-minute mark. For the first half of the film, as well as being a major part of the second half, the focus is pretty solely on David trying to get into a good college. And where the problem rises is the fact that the pacing for the schooling scenes and the pacing for the spa scenes are extremely different. The schooling scenes are paced fast and you feel the stress that David is feeling. The spa scenes, however, are shot like poetry with colors blending throughout and the scene is calm and relaxing. Which sounds great. You could argue that is what makes this film good, the contrast to where David is uncomfortable and where he is comfortable. The problem is that they are so contrasting that it becomes jarring and just poorly done. To the point where I was really into the film in the first half and could barely stay awake the second half.
Where I respect what Spa Night is trying to do, it never does anything to separate itself from every other film in the year. In this point of time, a film about a man discovering his sexuality is an extremely common subject. When you do that kind of subject, you have to find something to separate yourself to the point where you are telling your own story. Not the standard story. And Spa Night just never does that. It feels like something I’ve seen before and the one angle that it had, I never felt like it worked with that hard enough to make it interesting.