“Mope” Looks For Laughs In A Porn Industry Tragedy


There aren’t many stories as grody as the one being told in Mope. For those who don’t know the true tale, I’ll keep the salacious details to be discovered, but for those who know what this film is about, it isn’t hard to imagine the avenues being taken here. While the flick is pretty grimy, there’s an undercurrent of trying for something more. Mope doesn’t pull it off, despite its Boogie Nights ambitions, but it is somewhat encouraging to see the concept not executed with a lowest common denominator feel. You’ll need a shower after watching this, but you’ll also be left with a bit to think about. It’s a missed opportunity, but one not without some redeeming qualities.

The movie is a mix of comedy and drama, leading up to tragedy. For those aware of the true story, this is a dramatized look at the tragic tale of best friends Stephen Clancy Hill, who went by the stage name Steve Driver (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett), and Herbert Wong, who went by Tom Dong (Kelly Sry), two fringe porn actors who dreamed of fame. Meeting on the set of a fairly graphic sex shoot, they become fast friends, eventually gaining consistent work as “mopes” in the industry, which is a code for the type of performer who does all of the worst work in pornography. Porn stars, these two are not, though they dream of it at some point. Working for producer Eric (Brian Huskey), they have a foot in the door, but physical and mental limitations keep them from progressing. Tom seems okay with this, but Steve slowly loses his grip on reality, leading to a horrific act that momentarily captured the attention of news media. Lucas Heyne directs, while also co-writing the screenplay with Michael Louis Albo, David C. Hill, and Zack Newkirk. Jonathan Snipes composes the score, while cinematography is by Bryan Koss. David Arquette headlines the supporting cast, which also includes Max Adler, Tonya Cornelisse, and more.

It would be hard to make the “classy” version of this story, but interestingly, Lucas Heyne doesn’t make the exploitation version, either. Heyne’s direction, as well as the script he penned with Michael Louis Albo, David C. Hill, and Zack Newkirk, has a mixture of utter disgust at the characters, as well as a fascination with their humanity. It’s a tonal mess that the film doesn’t ever really overcome, but it makes for a production that’s never boring. It’s graphic and sometimes gross, but never sexy, so you’re always aware of the sad nature of a mope, as opposed to the supposed glamor of the porn industry. For these characters, that’s a world away.

Mope goes a little overboard in terms of supporting Steve’s delusion, making the back end a little tough to sit through. Honestly? It’s at these moments where the story really could have used stronger actors than Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and Kelly Sry. They’re fine in the roles, don’t get me wrong, but they handle the comedy better than the drama. When things get heavy, their limitations arise. Unfortunately, that leads to the final section of the movie come off as ridiculous, as opposed to truly tragic and fascinating. Heyne and company have that ambition, but Stewart-Jarrett, Sry, and company just aren’t fully up to the task. They come close, but they fall a bit short.

Today, you can seek out Mope, provided curiosity has gotten the better of you. Be warned, once again, it can get fairly graphic in one or two spots, but mostly, you just have to have a stomach for what the filmmakers are offering up. For me, the mixture wasn’t quite right, never fully able to balance the attempt at heart with the abundance of smut. A move more in one direction or the other might have helped. Who knows, maybe you’ll disagree?


Mope is available to watch now.

(Photos courtesy of Quiver Distribution)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

Follow us

Breaking Hollywood News   


UPDATES BY EMAIL

Comments are closed.