At times almost painfully voyeuristic — which is the entire point — Deborah Kampmeier’s Tape tells the powerful #MeToo story of two aspiring actresses whose ambitions put them in the crosshairs of a manipulative filmmaker. One is out for revenge, while the other is still hoping that she’s getting her big break. As their stories collide, truths are revealed.
Angry, hurt, and on a mission, Rosa (Annarosa Mudd) insinuates herself with Pearl (Isabelle Fuhrman), setting up secret webcams to track every move the other woman makes. Rosa is particularly focused on Pearl’s interactions with Lux (Tarek Bishara), a producer who’s ostensibly casting young women for an upcoming project. He seems to favor Pearl for the part — and for a full contract, he tells her — but his knowledge and influence come at a price.
Pearl, beaten down by the cutthroat nature of the industry and almost ready to give up her dreams, can’t help but be swayed by Lux’s calculated combination of compliments for her skill and challenges to her ability to “prove” she has what it takes. Meanwhile, Rosa watches from the sidelines and in the shadows, working toward a goal that, when it comes, is both cathartic and heartbreaking.
Tape doesn’t offer any clear solutions to the neverending onslaught of #MeToo stories — and it doesn’t excuse Rosa for her stealthy stalking of Pearl, even in the arguable interests of the greater good. But it does make it clear how easy it is for anyone to get caught up in a situation that can quickly spiral out of control, and it shows how important it is for women to believe and support each other.– Betsy Bozdech
Team #MOTW’s comments:
Loren King Sitting through it might be a bit masochistic, but pairing Tape and The Assistant would be the ultimate #MeToo double feature. Both films take place in the New York’s show business milieu and follow an earnest young woman who deals with a manipulative predator. Writer/director Deborah Kampmeier’s Tape is hard hitting and heartbreaking in its depiction of how a sleazy “agent” (Tarek Bishara) preys upon eager young actresses with promises of recognition — for a price, of course. The film’s interesting approach is to focus on Rosa (Annarosa Mudd) as she tracks a naive young actress (Isabelle Fuhrman) who, after a successful callback, becomes ensnared in Lux’s slimy web of smooth talk and promises of stardom. Rosa tapes an arranged “audition” and it becomes clear her hidden cameras are both an act of revenge — Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus is effectively used as a theme — not just for herself but for all the women Lux has harmed. Kampmeier shoots the secretly recorded audition with escalating tension and dread. The conclusion seems abrupt and, though satisfying, may seem overly optimistic. But Tape is necessarily excruciating and had me riveted for most of its taut running time.
Marina Antunes Deborah Kampmeier has never been one to shy away from touchy material but her latest film, Tape, is one of the most powerful she’s made to date. Isabelle Fuhrman stars as Pearl, an aspiring actress lured into an uncomfortable situation by a charismatic acting coach/manager named Lux (Tarek Bishara). That already awkward relationship is captured on hidden video by the clearly distraught Rosa whose full involvement with Pearl and Lux isn’t apparent until very late in the third act. Kampmeier opens with an extremely visceral scene that sits with the viewer for the remainder of the movie’s running time and the creepier the Pearl/Lux relationship gets, the more affecting that opening scene becomes. Kampmeier doles out details sparingly, trusting that the actor’s performances are enough to keep us engaged and the on-screen talent doesn’t disappoint, particularly new-comer Annarosa Mudd who gives a fantastic debut performance. A difficult watch but an empowering story about taking control and fighting back.
Leslie Combemale With Tape, writer/director Deborah Kampmeier has created a taut, layered #MeToo movie. It’s a sobering, well-executed example of gaslighting and manipulation that many women, whether in the film or any industry, will recognize, though, one hopes, in much smaller measure. What mades the film so engaging is the committed, believable, and complicated portrayals brought by Isabelle Fuhrmann as the hopeful ingenue, (and by that I mean, someone who doesn’t expect every man to be inherently horrible), Tarek Bishara as the predatory producer, and Annarosa Mudd as a woman who can drastically alter not only the lives of women the producer is targeting, but the producer as well. There are few moments where your shoulders won’t be bunched around your ears. In the current climate, where we are all being asked to ignore our feelings of terror and powerlessness and carry on, a little anger-inducing escapism seems perfectly timed.
Pam Grady: Deborah Kampmeier’s searing drama, Tape, is a disturbing film precisely because it nails the culture of rape and sexual harassment that has been pervasive in so many industries for far too long. Read full review.
Jennifer Merin Deborah Kampmeier’s Tape is a gut wrenching narrative about a sexual predator who promises vulnerable young actresses career advancement if they prove their talents and commitments on his casting couch. Isabel Fuhrman and Annarose Mudd play two victimized actresses who suffer the anguished aftermath of their rape and seek recovery and revenge. The plot is gripping and the performances are powerful. Tape is graphic and difficult to watch, but it’s a must see, a call to put an end to the rape culture that is prevalent in show business and other industries.
Sandie Angulo Chen: Writer-director Deborah Kampmeier’s timely #MeToo drama Tape is not an easy film to watch. It begins with a young actress becoming a bit too Method about Lavinia’s monologue in Titus Andronicus: she pierces her tongue, shaves her head, and cuts her wrists in homage to the character’s post-rape mutilation. It’s an ominously violent start to a film about how vulnerable aspiring actresses are taken advantage of by powerful men in the industry. A bloody Rosa (Annarosa Mudd) disguises herself, tapes a camera to her chest, and attends a casting call where she meets the kind and lovely Pearl (Isabelle Fuhrman). Rosa, who clearly has a past with the producer Lux (Tarek Bishara), begins to stalk Pearl to see if she ends up in Lux’s smooth-talking, career-promising clutches. Mudd’s character is not only named Rosa, but she looks more than a bit like Rose McGowan, with the shaved head, doe eyes, and red lipstick. The camerawork is intentionally shaky as Rosa (through a series of concealed cameras) watches how Lux seamlessly demands Pearl screen test in an increasingly sexual way. It’s unsettling at first and mirrors the disturbing way Pearl is being manipulated. There’s a lot to unpack in Tape, which like The Assistant explores the many ways the entire industry is complicit in Hollywood’s pervasive sexism, misogyny, and rape culture.
MaryAnn Johanson I’m so tired of these movies. And by this I don’t mean that movies like Tape aren’t absolutely necessary and full of vital rage… but they’re only essential viewing because no one ever seems to listen and so we have to keep screaming our truths from the rooftops, or the celluloid. How often do women have to keep telling the same stories over and over again before the world hears us? I’m exhausted at not being listened to when women speak of the everyday horrors of our lives. Maybe Tape will be the time we are heard? I’d love to think so, but I doubt it. That’s no fault of the movie. That women filmmakers — and women from all walks of life who stand up and demand to be taken seriously when we talk about how men prey on us — will simply not shut up about this is a testament to the resilience of women. But why should we have to be this strong?
Cate Marquis Deborah Kampmeier’s taut feminist drama Tape opens with images of the mutilated character Lavinia from Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, followed by horrific footage of a young woman strapping a camera to her belly to film herself engaged in self-mutilation. The scene looks like something out of a horror film, but the film shifts gears, as the woman turns her camera towards secretly filming a predatory male director as he moves in on a young actress, with a pretense of coaching her acting. The echos of Harvey Weinstein and his ilk are unmistakable, and this based-on-a-true story about a #MeToo experience offers a harrowing journey with a gut-punch ending.
Liz Whittemore Tape goes beyond the Hollywood casting couch clichés by flipping the script on the #MeToo movement. The weaponization of feminism is the most effective manipulation in this screenplay. The revenge aspect is a slow and painful burn for the viewer. It forces you to confront trauma head-on and it infuriates you. You will be unable to take your eyes off the screen as each performance is captivating for completely different reasons. Tape is wickedly edited. Using a combination of spy cams, recorded clips, and traditional steadicam, it’s always visually interesting. Discovering that this is based on true events shouldn’t be surprising. Yet somehow that makes it an even bigger punch in the gut. Writer, director, editor, and producer Deborah Kampmeier opens her veins for us. Tape is an important film. The final scene will give you chills.
Directors: Deborah Kampmeier
Release Date: March 27, 2020
Running Time: 98 minutes
Screenwriter: Deborah Kampmeier
Distribution Company: Full Moon Films
AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Sandie Angulo Chen, Marina Antunes, Nikki Baughan, Betsy Bozdech, Leslie Combemale, Pam Grady, MaryAnn Johanson, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Sheila Roberts, Liz Whittemore, Susan Wloszczyna
Edited by Jennifer Merin