Strawberry Mansion takes place in a future where dreams are filled with advertisements and are taxed by the government. James Preble (Kentucker Audley, who is also one of the writers and directors of the film) arrives at a countryside home to collect on years of unpaid taxes from the elderly Bella Isadora (Penny Fuller). The surreal journey that follows will captivate and frustrate audiences.
In a film that includes a chicken and gravy milkshake and random stop motion animation there is going to be the constant risk of alienating the audience. It does not help matters that Strawberry Mansion often seems to lose focus. Much like the audience, the film seems to be caught up in how creative it is.
Thankfully, Strawberry Mansion remains charming the entire time. The characters are impossible not to like, and even though it is underdeveloped, the love story is a cute one that is fun to watch. As the plot continues, a mystery also becomes the central focus of the story.
It is best to view this as a filmmaking experiment. From the opening moments, colors bounce off the screen and attacks the senses. There is a psychedelic quality to Strawberry Mansion that is dreamlike. An argument can be made that the movie overdoes it, but that is also part of its endearing quality. The camerawork and production give everything an otherworldly feel. Sometimes, it is more like looking at an exhibit than watching a movie.
So, is Stawberry Mansion a case of style of substance? It is hard to say it is not, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Visually, the story would become tedious without a story attached to it. For its part, the premise is a little too threadbare to work on its own. All together though, it is a grand experience.
Strawberry Mansion opens in select theaters February 18
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