Nineteen minutes might be enough time to decide whether a movie is going to be worth your time, but it may not be enough time to develop true emotional attachments and connections with characters. Based on a screenplay by Clarissa Jacobson, J.M. Logan’s short film, “Lunch Ladies” simplifies his characters and dramatizes their emotions, in what seems to be an effort to prevent viewers from being tempted to stop watching after two minutes. Although the stereotypical characters are easy to understand and follow, their simplicity contrasts with the twisted story and over-the-top drama. This odd film will certainly keep one’s eyes on the screen, but leave one wondering, “What just happened?”
“Lunch Ladies” is a dark horror-comedy about two women, Seretta (Donna Pieroni) and LouAnne (Mary Manofsky), who are stuck making food for bratty and ungrateful kids at a high school. Seretta and LouAnne learn that they have won a mini burger cooking competition and have the chance to meet their ultimate inspiration: Johnny Depp. Having nicknamed him “Deppers,” Seretta and LouAnne have to keep their awful jobs in order to pay for the plane tickets to go see their idol. If the plot isn’t already weird enough, one of the lunch ladies kills a blond cheerleader after the girl makes snarky comments about their Deppers. The two heroines make pies out of her dead body and serve it to the high schoolers. The newfound popularity of their pies allows them to purchase the plane tickets and redeems them in the eyes of their boss, who had threatened to fire them unless they improved their food.
Peripheral but entertaining characters include a rude cheerleader who takes selfies and smokes a cigarette in the bathroom, a cranky old janitor, a zany lunch lady, and an annoying boss. What more would you expect in high school? That being said, the extremely easy to read and follow characters throughout the film’s erratic plot prevent boredom. The combination of stereotypical characters and general absurdity might easily remind viewers of Disney Channel original movies, but this time with a morbid twist. The dramatic “Home Alone”-esque soundtrack complements the macabre but darkly humorous plot.
Logan, an award-winning filmmaker, has been involved in all aspects of filmmaking: visual effects, sound, makeup, and more. Although this movie may seem too absurd to enjoy, Logan has masterfully used his knowledge of film to create a piece of art that is impossible to look away from. Logan specializes in incredibly gory scenes. His attention to details that make horror thrilling almost redeems the weak plot and makes for an exciting viewing experience. The moment when Seretta and LouAnne grind up the cheerleader’s body in a meat grinder is especially disturbing as well as tantalizing in a twisted way.
Logan is able to condense all the emotions, reactions, and plot into a very quick 19 minutes. This movie could have been extended into a full two hours with a plot that made more sense and more complex character development. Logan too severely compresses the emotion of a full-length feature into an overdramatized, stereotypical, and overacted comedy. Of course, Seretta and LouAnne’s dramatic hyperventilating, obviously fake crying, and orgasmic reaction to the letter informing them of their win were probably purposefully overdone in order to convey the maximum amount of emotion in 19 minutes. However, Logan pursues so many plot digressions at the same time that it is impossible to pay attention to anything else but the overblown drama. The film’s worst flaws are its thoroughly distracting storylines and over-acted moments, but ultimately make it an irresistible watch.