Florida Film Festival 2016 Review: ‘Cuddle Party’

Rob Huebel and Michaela Watkins star as a couple having major relationship problems in the short film “Cuddle Party.” Directed by Michael Irving Epstein, the short will be screened at the Florida Film Festival this month.

Familiar faces abound in “Cuddle Party,” a dark comedy about a couple whose marriage is on the rocks. The short film is hitting the festival circuit and will screen at the Florida Film Festival this month. The 15-minute comedy provides plenty of misery and just as many laughs.

Let’s start with the misery. Enter Jane (Michaela Watkins, “Casual”) and Drew (Rob Huebel, “Transparent”), who are having problems in their relationship. They decide to try out an alternative to couple’s therapy called a cuddle party. Before stepping foot inside their cuddle session the two are arguing, throwing insults and f-bombs. This is going to go well.
Jane and Drew finally join the group led by Allison (Yvette Nicole Brown). As their fellow cuddles begin to share, Jane contorts her face disapprovingly, while Drew makes sarcastic quips.
Both wear their personality flaws on their sleeves: they’re rude, obnoxious and arrogant. They interrupt. They dismiss others when they don’t like what they’re hearing. They mock the whole process.

At one point, Jane and Drew turn the tables on their fellow cuddle party-goers by stating everyone in the room has problems. That’s true. The difference between the unhappy couple and everyone else is, however, that Jane and Drew are far more obnoxious about their issues.
Once Jane reveals the reason for the couple’s troubles, you understand the bitterness, even if you don’t completely empathize with their behavior. Eventually, Jane and Drew begin to open up and be honest with one another.
Don’t be fooled by the all the talk of misery and anger, “Cuddle Party” offers plenty of laughs. Jane and Drew are two self-absorbed, miserable people, but seeing the two working through their issues is part of the fun. The exchanges between Jane and Drew, Jane and Allison, Drew and everyone else is pure, unfiltered comedy. Jane and Drew are borderline hopeless, and even though you might not root for them, you can laugh along.
Director Matthew Irving Epstein has crafted a very personal story of loneliness and cynicism without getting lost in it.
Cuddle Party is executive produced by Jill Soloway (Amazon’s “Transparent”), which explains the familiar themes and tone.

“Cuddle Party” will screen at The Florida Film Festival on April 9 as part of the Shorts Program 1: Changes and again on April 12.

For more information about the Florida Film Festival and tickets, click here.

Originally published at www.mynews13.com on April 7, 2016.

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