Socks and Cakes (2010) – By Cary Conley

Harry is a French literature professor from NYU who seems to be bitter about everything. He’s been invited to a dinner party, but doesn’t seem particularly pleased to be there or very happy with any of the people in attendance. He’s just skating by, one day at a time. His ex-wife, Amanda, and her husband Richard–Harry’s best friend–are the hosts of this little party. They are waiting for one more couple so the party can start. Once David, an in-your-face and obviously fake real estate agent and his new fling arrive, dinner is served.

No wonder Harry is bitter. He’s attending a dinner party with his ex-wife and his best friend and their good friend David, whom Harry obviously dislikes. David is cool and good-looking and seems to have fabulous luck with women and not a care in the world, which irritates Harry to no end. It frustrates him that he is apparently the only person who can see through this huckster. If this isn’t enough, David’s latest fling is a beautiful and waifish 20-something French girl named Sophie.

We get to know a little something about most of the characters as the dinner progresses and each makes conversation at the table. Each character’s comments sheds a bit of light on their personality. For instance, David is concerned only with outward looks and is quite shallow; he’s all about facade. So it comes as no surprise that he announces his latest decorative find: a type of brick cover that can be used to hide the old bricks to make a room look new. He’s quite proud of himself. Richard and Amanda are also concerned with looks. Outwardly, their marriage is perfect. They both own their own homes and spend time living with each other in both homes as well as separately when Richard "needs his own space." Richard is quite pleased with this arrangement, but it soon begins to chafe Amanda. In fact, Amanda hasn’t been herself at all, and only Harry seems to pick up on this. So while Amanda is icing the dessert cake, Harry approaches her only for Amanda to have a breakdown and admit that she had an affair with David–the one person Harry really can’t stand. Ironically, while that conversation is going on in the kitchen, Amanda’s husband Richard is having a flirtatious conversation with Sophie, who mentions she hates men who fold their clothes carefully before sex but doesn’t mind when they wear their socks. Richard takes this as an invitation and asks Sophie to visit him after the party is over. "I promise I won’t fold my clothes," he says. The film closes with Richard’s proposition and an enigmatic look from Sophie.

Socks and Cakes is a dramedy about a group of very bitter people. Only Sophie seems truly happy and carefree, but she is by far the youngest of the group. She’s also the only character that doesn’t inform the viewer about herself around the dinner table. Her comment, like her personality, is mysterious and unclear. And so is her reaction to Richard’s final proposition; we are left with no real impression about how she will answer him. In fact, this 15-minute short is one big open-ended story. Nothing at all is resolved. At film’s close Richard still thinks he has a perfect arrangement with his marriage: he can send Amanda home and sleep with whomever he wants. Amanda’s issues are unresolved. It seems she regrets leaving Harry and also regrets her marriage to Richard, but she has no real plan to solve her troubles. And poor David is left bumbling around happily, unaware that his brand-new girlfriend may be hatching a plan to sleep with someone else. What a mess! But then, isn’t this the way Real Life is? Socks and Cakes is a refreshingly realistic take on adult relationships and represents the best of what indie film is all about. No sappy Hollywood endings. Loose ends are still loose. And that’s the way life really is: rarely do things work out perfectly or sometimes even satisfactorily. Real Life is complicated and messy, and the resolutions to problems aren’t always perfect. I found Socks and Cakes to be a refreshing take on relationships.

There is some light comedy as well, in particular when writer/director Antonio Padovan breaks filmic rules to allow Harry to speak directly to the audience to express his frustrations. This is a funny and unique way to introduce some quick background of the characters to the audience. And while the film is an ensemble piece, it is based around the Timothy J. Cox’s character, Harry. The acting is terrific all around but Cox does a particularly nice job of playing the slightly jealous, slightly lazy, and totally antagonistic Harry.

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