ALSO HAS "DISORIENTING FAKEOUT" THAT IS "AS GRACEFUL AS DE PALMA"
Joe Swanberg shot 24 Exposures prior to last year's Drinking Buddies, but it is being released in theaters and VOD today. The Los Angeles Times' Gary Goldstein says that while Swanberg "is on to something" in 24 Exposures, "unfortunately, this would-be erotic thriller is just too unfocused and slapdash to satisfy its promise. With vague echoes of such art-meets-murder films as Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up and Brian De Palma's Blow Out, Swanberg attempts to provoke and grip. But he fails on both counts in telling this tale of Billy (Adam Wingard), a 'personal fetish photographer' whose violence-laced work begins to parallel a murder being investigated by a depressed cop (Simon Barrett)."
The Village Voice's Alan Scherstuhl also finds the film's thriller/horror elements disappointing, and criticizes Swanberg's seeming use of nudity for nudity's sake. "Nobody's arguing that nudity precludes the possibility of serious artistic intent," states Scherstuhl, "except maybe those dopes who complain that the flesh bared on Girls doesn't seem to be there to inspire masturbation. 24 Exposures, on the other hand, seems crafted for viewers to watch with their hands in their pants. Yes, as the horny photographer and his girlfriend (Caroline White) hook up with their models, there are clever feints toward parody and criticism of godawful erotic thrillers, but the point of the many nude scenes never feels like anything more than the nudity. Swanberg has made an inspiring career out of rejecting the aesthetic crimes of Hollywood. It's dispiriting, then, that he so doggedly indulges in its tradition of male gazing. This is strict T&A, in a literal sense — just tits and ass, often gamely fondled.
"It's cheerful T&A, at least, and the women are allowed to be chatty, likable people, their characters always eager participants in their fetishization. If there's any artistic breakthrough it's in Swanberg's reclamation of the humanity of softcore, a project he's verged upon before: The women who get naked are the kind these indie filmmakers happen to know and like, a different set than the ones usually hired for movie erotica. Expect bobs, pores, nerves, and an affable freshness, and none of the steely, professional determination of the starlets of the Cinemax circuit. And don't expect to watch these women (all white) suffer acts of violence — there's none of that feeling, familiar from too many horror flicks, that at some level the filmmakers enjoy seeing women suffer.
"Granted, the female cast here all poses for Billy's crime-scene photo shoots, which involve ripped bras and tights, bathtubs of stage blood, and Laura Palmer–style corpse makeup. Since this is also something of a (gentle, self-referential, dissatisfying by design) horror film, those scenes of play-acted murder get juxtaposed against one that's meant to be real in the movie's story. It's a disorienting fakeout, as graceful as De Palma, and perhaps something of a commentary on the aestheticized sexual brutality of CSIs, SVUs, and every Shannon Tweed vehicle, but the deepest the movie digs into it is Billy admitting that he doesn't want to think too hard about what gets him off. (That could be the movie's thesis statement.)"
CraveOnline's Brian Formo adds that "there is a great Brian De Palma film within 24 Exposures. It is also filled with some perfectly framed De Palma moments: peering at women through blinds, sterile unfulfilling design of homes and offices, a third act that reveals that it never knew where to go with the narrative and explains it away in very writer-ly fashion."