Lapsis is a dystopian comedy that successfully, and succinctly, mirrors the world we live in today. Set in an alternative version of the present, or near feature, Lapsis plays out like a light-hearted episode of Black Mirror. Employing recognizable imagery and language alongside slight deviations that set the film’s world apart ever so slightly, much like 2018’s Sorry to Bother You, Lapsis presents us with a new quantum technology that fuels a gig economy much like our own.
Lapsis starts out by explaining the premise of quantum technology and quantum cabling to us via retro style infomercials – which we’ll see throughout the film. These infomercials serve to advertise the networking technology as well as to entice people to join in, promising them a lucrative career. It feels a lot like a multi-level marketing scheme, something that might be too good, and too easy, to be true.
While quantum cabling has something to do with the stock market, and implications of the importance of quantum cabling to the world of finance are weaved throughout Lapsis, this means nothing to Ray. Until just a few weeks ago, the world of Wall Street and corporate finance felt inaccessible for many. I’m not going to pretend to understand more than I do about the stock market, or what quantum cabling has to do with any of it, and neither does Ray. He’s an every-man hero that many Americans can relate to today.
Ray (played by a greasy yet charming Dean Imperial) lives in Queens, wears a retro Casio watch and 80’s dad glasses, and uses a side-kick instead of a smart phone. Ray’s job is sort of shady — he delivers lost luggage. He’s resistant to the world of new technology that surrounds him. He’s skeptical, and he doesn’t trust the quantum computers that have suddenly become “necessary”. While Ray doesn’t exactly understand, nor trust, anything to do with quantum, a job cabling seems like the sort of flexible, well-paying side gig he needs.
Ray’s somewhat shady job lends him the flexibility to care for his brother, Jamie (Babe Howard). Jamie’s suffering from a mysterious Chronic Fatigue Syndrome-like illness called Omnia. While at first I questioned if writer/director Noah Hutton was poking fun at invisible illnesses like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and mental health issues, he seems instead focused on questioning the kind of scrutiny that those dealing with such illnesses face.
Dean Imperial’s performance as Ray is perfect. He’s described in the film as having sort of a “70s gangster” vibe, which is mostly due to how he dresses — he really gives off a very normal, working-class, casual Tony Soprano vibe. Dean Imperial’s excellent facial expressions and timing lend a comedic hand to just about every scene. Babe Howard is great as the gangly, sleepy Jamie. They’re the kind of duo that could make for an entire sitcom — they’re just fun to watch together.
Ray’s new side gig as a quantum cabler takes him out to the woods. We don’t often get to see sci-fi that takes place out in nature, with lots of camping involved. It’s great to watch the automated bots that cablers have to compete with as they race along cabling trails. One of the best shots in the film is of a whole ton of cables snaking through the forest like roots; a direct visual representation of just how intrusive technology is.
While he’s out cabling, Ray meets Anna (Madeline Wise). Anna’s been cabling for a lot longer than Ray has, and as she befriends Ray, she gets him thinking about his role in the gig economy in a way he hadn’t before. She adds a level of political discourse to Lapsis that will get us all thinking about our own relationships to technology, consumerism, automation, and our economic positions. Ray seems to have some “bootstraps” ideology about his economic position and what quantum cabling can do for him financially, and Anna points out to him that he came to his position as a cabler illegitimately. It’s just one of many cheeky moments that I’m sure many viewers can identify directly with.
Lapsis is a unique film that’s as funny as it is smart. There’s a mystery in Lapsis as we discover how Ray came to get his cabling medallion (like taxi medallions), and as we discover what, or who, Lapsis is. As Ray meets other cablers, many of whom are struggling financially, along his way, he learns more about the reality of the situation he and many others are in. Lapsis becomes something of a working class folk tale, and is an absolute must-see for 2021.
Lapsis comes to virtual cinema, VOD, and Digital February 12
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