Review: Total Performance

Produced by Cross River Pictures and written/produced by Sean Meehan.

Total Performance’s narrative centers on Cori, played by Tory Berner, a struggling actress whose day job is playing the part of real living people. She works for an agency that allows disgruntled spouses and nervous bosses to rent surrogates by the hour. Taking the place of existing humans is beginning to weigh on Cori, as her job has started to bleed into every other facet of her life.


From the opening scene, the set dressing is on point with just the right amount of a woman’s touch to impose client Bruce(Paul Locke)’s wife’s influence without her physical presence.

The entire film is well lit, perhaps at times a bit too well. It doesn’t quite seem real but in this case, I’d argue that’s beneficial. Its vague disreality speaks to Cori’s increasing inability to retreat into normal life. All the world is her stage and she’s misplaced the exit.


There are moments when the viewer must suspend their disbelief. For instance, I’ve never been to an office building where the front desk phone was an iPhone. Seems to me there would be an incredible amount of potential for breaches of confidentiality and this is not the kind of service you’d want everyone in your life knowing you use. In a lot of ways, the service Cori and co-workers provide could be seen as a more appropriate and legal version of prostitution, for the emotional parts of the relationship rather than the sexual.

Is it cheating if you only have your arguments with someone else?


Fragments of Cori’s appointment with Bruce are interspersed with moments from her first date with Tim (Steven Conroy). What I found strange in this is not simply how much time they spend discussing her job when they seem to barely broach Tim’s life, it’s how similarly the two scenes play out. She’s too accustomed to being in control and forming relationships for the moment and seems unable to properly connect while Tim is just a bit too awkward, almost as though he’s auditioning Cori for the role of his girlfriend. Though this all seems quite odd in the moment, the reasons behind it become much clearer near the end of the narrative.


For me, the weakest part is the end. It comes too soon and with too many unanswered questions. I had an inkling of another connection to Cori’s work life which, if it exists, could have been easiest and subtly clarified in a matter of moments. Instead, I was left wondering whether or not I’d read too much into a handful of lines. As long as you go into it with the right expectations, Total Performance is well worth watching. At just 17 minutes, it does manage to develop some depth in most of its characters, I just wish it had been a bit clearer about their connections to one another. Once you’ve seen it, I think you’ll know what I mean.

Total Performance is out now and you can watch below via Vimeo.

This short was brought to our attention by Timothy J. Cox who plays Walter, one of Cori’s clients. Thanks, Tim!


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