Tuesday, November 22, 2011
What turns ordinary people into murderers? This is the central question Exhibit A attempts to answer. During the opening credits we learn that what we are about to see is evidence of a murder. We are introduced to the King family, lovable dad, sullen teenage daughter Judith, her annoying brother Joe, and high maintenance “mum”. As the film begins Judith is using the new camcorder she received for her birthday to document the everyday life of her silly family. It is through her camcorder that we watch the events of the story unfold. We learn that dad is going to purchase a larger home for his brood once his expected promotion is announced. Joe is screwing around with the attractive girl next door while Judith has a secret crush on the same girl and is in anguish over her parents’ decision to move. Judith’s footage captures the family’s mundane lives as well as snippets of dialogue that hint at very big problems.
Dad is spreading the family finances awfully thin in order to purchase his dream home and when the strains of his bad financial decisions begin piling up his initial reaction is to disguise the stress of the situation through humor. However, humor devolves into strange behavior as he begins to retreat into himself. When he acts out at a family BBQ, Judith suspects that something is going on with him and begins to surreptitiously document all of his behavior with the innocence of a child who hopes to play the footage back to him in order to “show him” how he has been behaving. Judith’s footage captures a series of arguments and tense moments, which ultimately culminate into tragedy.
Completely convincing, Exhibit A achieves its goal swimmingly by presenting the raw footage of Judith’s disjointed video diary to reveal how the coalescence of life’s stressors can lead to tragedy. We read about regular people committing murder all the time but rarely with the back story. Exhibit A provides an authentic, chilling explanation for how the unimaginable occurs. It would not work if not for the excellent performances of all involved.