In her short film Wiener, Natalie Peracchio tackles the timeless theme of being yourself through a very unusual college admissions tour. Here we follow Simone and her father, who have traveled all the way from Ohio to Boston to visit “Overton College”, but Simone has a trick up her sleeve: President Weiner.
Through Simone’s drawings and imagination, her goofy character appears to us throughout her day as she deals with her caring yet slow moving father, and the overwhelming expectations of her future. This film looks great, in fact, technically speaking, there isn’t anything not nice to say! The mostly black and white cinematography is crisp, with the lighting doing great thematic work, and the blocking occasionally being used to comedic effect.
The actors clearly understand the assignment, with the two leads especially having great father-daughter energy, and the few side characters doing well to build the world. Of course, while looking and sounding great (forgot to mention the perfectly wacky music), the story itself is what spoke to me most, it’s simple and silly emotional core working perfectly to capture that feeling of young uncertainty. Right off the bat President Weiner is introduced to us in a very zany and dreamlike sequence. We watch as he receives a new pair of kick-ass boots, which quickly introduces us to our main character Simone, who is drawing pictures of President Weiner as they arrive in Boston. Nanouli Shevardnadze and Marvin Novogrodksi are great at playing daughter and father. Their goofy and, at times, straining relationship comes off as very natural. Shevardnadze is also perfect as the bright-eyed and unsure college freshman-to-be, sure of herself while still being out of her depth.
The relationship between Simone and President Weiner however, is the most important aspect of the film. From my perspective, it seems most obvious that he represents both Simone’s creative side, as well as her childlike personality: a rambunctious spirit that she tries to hide, even though it’s who she really is. Though she may try to mask her real self from other visitors on the tour and her interviewer, it’s inevitable that he “shows himself” by the end through her drawings.
The film is very slice-of-life, though it’s s through the addition of the Wiener character that it becomes something more. Putting life through a black and white lens is clever, as whenever President Weiner appears he is in color, highlighting that creativity and personality is what brings life to our otherwise banal everyday world. That is not to say that this character is the only comedic aspect of the film, far from it! The dialogue and character interactions have various slyly hilarious turns, the hot dog conversation being my personal favorite. The relationship between Simone and her father also contributes greatly to the humor of the film, their laughter and frustration shared with each other being very relatable and warm.
While the tone is pretty consistent throughout, there are scenes that vary and are able to capture different moods. The scene between Simone and her father practicing her interview, for example, takes place in a “freaking gloomy” restaurant, accentuating the seriousness of the conversation. Alternatively, the actual interview scene takes place in a large and brightly lit room, emphasizing how exposed Simone feels whilst trying to do her best, ultimately sharing more than she ever intended.
The film speaks greatly to the sense of feeling comfortable in your own skin through a variety of different thematic choices, with family and creativity at the helm of Simone’s life experience. I’ll never forget President Weiner and his boots, and though Simone’s story may be one that has been told before, it’s nice to see it told in a refreshing new way: black and white and weird all over.
Wiener screens as part of Shorts Program #3 at the Spring 2024 New Jersey Film Festival on Friday, February 9. The film will be Online for 24 Hours and In-Person at 7 PM in Voorhees Hall #105/Rutgers University, 71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, NJ. Tickets are available for purchase here.