There’s voyeurism but no thrill in this dark indie drama from “Hounddog” director Deborah Kampmeier. “Tape” never veers into exploitation the way that controversial Sundance film — which featured the rape of a preteen character played by Dakota Fanning — did, but it remains an uncomfortable watch for every second of its 100-minute running time.
It begins with Rosa (Annarosa Mudd) paying homage to the story of “Titus Andronicus” rape survivor Lavinia: piercing her own tongue, slicing her wrists and shaving her head. But the act doesn’t just honor the suffering of the Shakespearean character; it also makes her unrecognizable as she stalks fellow actress Pearl (Isabelle Fuhrman), though Pearl isn’t Rosa’s target. Instead, as Rosa surreptitiously records Pearl’s interactions with producer Lux (Tarek Bishara), it’s clear that his Machiavellian behavior with vulnerable young actresses is what makes him Rosa’s real subject.
Kampmeier’s script is based on a friend’s experience, arriving as #MeToo continues to be a force for good in Hollywood. But while “Tape” is admirable in its aims to frankly explore what happens behind closed doors, it’s less laudable in its execution. This isn’t meant to be light viewing, but it’s a grueling watch beyond its serious subject matter. Hidden-camera shots aim to add veracity to what we’re seeing, but the style isn’t as strong visually as it is thematically.
“Tape” might be based on a true story but it still feels disingenuous, both in its bleakest moments and in those meant to inspire solidarity. There’s clumsiness present in the filmmaking, with issues that deserve so much better.