One of my goals for this year was to get out of my comfort zone as far as my reviews. Well 2020 has certainly made that interesting but I have tried to review more thrillers/horror movies to help expand my portfolio as a critic. For example, I recently saw Unhinged which I didn’t like and then Relic which I did like and is one of my favorite films of 2020. Now we have the 80s throwback thriller called Rent-A-Pal. This is a very disturbing but effective film which tells a creepy story about the mania loneliness can cause.
Rent-A-Pal tells the story of David (Brian Landis Folkins) who is shouldering the burden of caring for his aging Mother with severe dementia. She often calls him Frank, his father’s name and seems resentful of the help David gives her. She even wanders away and is lost trying to find her husband. Anyone who has cared for someone with dementia can relate to these experiences. (It’s very interesting that Relic also dealt with these same themes as well as Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things, which I will review later).
One day David gets a video tape from his video dating service that’s a video introduction to friend Andy played by Will Wheaton. He asks you how your day has been, compliments your decor and shares jokes all for a small purchase fee at the video dating service. Meanwhile, David gets matched by the service with a girl named Lisa who seems could be an actual friend. Can David see the difference between what is real or a artificial? That’s where the mania lies in a the movie and like I said it is very effective.
The only thing I wish they had more time for is to build up his link to Andy. It all happens very quickly, in just a couple of days, which makes it less believable. This is especially true because he is so so excited for the date with Lisa and it seems to go so well.
Speaking of Lisa, I thought Amy Rutledge did a really good job in a small role. She is warm and likable, which is a nice contrast to the phony affability of Andy. Everybody does a good job in Rent-A-Pal but I found myself rooting for Lisa towards the end.
Rent-A-Pal is an upsetting film if you have been lonely in your life. It definitely won’t be for everyone but if it sounds interesting to you it’s well made and worth a watch.
Look for Rent-A-Pal in drive-ins, theaters and VOD Sept 11th
7 out of 10