Zachary Lapierre’s short comedy Dirty Books opens with a look into one of the major consequences of social media: the slow but sure disappearance of the printed word. But the director places his film within the halls of an ordinary school, and places the spotlight on a young high school journalist introduced as David Burrough, who is told by the headmaster in the opening scene that his beloved newspaper is set to be replaced by an online blog.
Read at Unsung Films: Total Performance.
David is outraged and sets out to stop the online blog from destroying his pride and joy. But the viewer’s faith in David is crushed when it becomes clear to us that his campaign against the rise of social media is not so much for his love of the printed newspaper, but for his love of himself – a tireless narcissism that has no bounds and that turns our attitude towards his efforts sour. In short, his cause is an admirable one, but is so for the wrong reasons, and for this reasons, one finds himself torn between wanting his efforts to succeed and wanting him to fail.
It is very easy to dislike David, which is simultaneously what makes Lapierre’s film a successful comedy. David’s ego is pure entertainment. The way he treats his classmates is despicable –he runs his newspaper as a kind of micro-dictatorship, shunning the opinions of his subordinates in the most brutal fashion. He looks down on the likes of sports writers and treats them like the scum of the earth. He is sly and selfish, smug and self-righteous – and he will stop at nothing to keep his newspaper from sinking. Credit here should also go to Noah Bailey, who handles this role more than adequately.
His only choice is to write something is withering (non-existent) readership will pick up on. But his problem is that nothing interesting ever happens at Prichard Hall. He makes this brutally and ruthlessly clear to his sports journalist when she approaches him regarding a possible story. His ruthless attitude towards others and desperate attempts to cling onto a certain amount of power is transmitted through Lapierre and Ian Everhart’s enjoyable and often cutting dialogue. His greatest rival is the school headmaster, who functions as a thorn in David’s side, from beginning to end.
Dirty Books climbs towards its culmination when a friend of his (his only friend) eventually provides him with an idea: to come up with an interesting story even if it ends up being completely false. This is when David’s true effort begins and when he starts to dig himself deeper and deeper into a world that refuses to accommodate his cause.
Watch Dirty Books here: