Lightningface: The Internet’s Boyfriend Strikes Again

This piece was originally published by Film Inquiry on August 31, 2017.

Oscar Isaac is the most recent in a long line of leading men — led by Ryan Gosling and Benedict Cumberbatch, among others — to have earned the title of the Internet’s Boyfriend. And for this filmgoer, it’s pretty easy to see why. I wasn’t impressed with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but I was impressed with Isaac’s charismatic performance as Poe Dameron, a rascally X-Wing pilot whose chemistry with John Boyega’sFinn was the highlight of the movie. With his tousled hair, ethnically ambiguous good looks, and hobbit-esque stature, he’s that handsome guy that comes off as nice enough for you to think he might be attainable. The fact that he is also a very talented actor doesn’t hurt.

Lightningface is a 20-minute short film that should tide the Internet’s Isaac cravings over until Star Wars: The Last Jedi is released this winter. Written and directed by Brian Petsos, who has previously made other shorts starring Isaac, the film functions as a bizarre “origin story of sorts,” for the titular character. Isaac portrays Basil Stitt, a seemingly ordinary man (albeit with an unnecessarily quirky name) whose life changes after he is struck by lightning. With one side of his face covered with scars, he decides to quit his job, dump his girlfriend of three years and cloister himself in his apartment to survive only on pizza deliveries.

Needless to say, it isn’t only Basil’s face that has changed. The more time he spends alone in the apartment, talking to no one except the eyepatch-wearing pizza delivery man and a mysterious stuffed monkey that also happens to have only one eye, the more Basil appears to be going insane. It’s all incredibly odd and aimless and probably wouldn’t work if it weren’t for Isaac, who gives an entirely bonkers performance that truly sells Basil’s gradual transformation into the paper mag mask-wearing Lightningface. For most of the film, Isaac is the only one onscreen, but like the performances of Tom Hanks in Cast Away and Adrien Brody in The Pianist, he manages to hold your attention anyways. This all-too-rare quality is the trademark of a true star.

Do I think Lightningface is brilliant? Well, no. If one of my classmates at NYU film school presented it before the class sans Isaac, I would have dismissed its length as self-indulgent and its story as nonexistent. The success of a film like this depends entirely on the actor at the center, and in this case, that just happens to be a very good one. In the end, there are worse ways to spend 20 minutes of your day than by watching Oscar Isaac wreck havoc on himself.

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