Ian Foliver is a pessimistic, depressed, and reclusive young man with a touch of agoraphobia. When his best friend, an old Commodore tube Television named Kent, bites the bullet with a busted boob-tube tube in his unkept apartment, Ian determines that life is no longer worth living because that television named Kent was his only friend, his only ray of daily sunshine and that life-worthy activity had just suddenly died. Feeling that life is no longer worth living, Ian gathers up household chemical products and decides to gas himself to death in his bathtub, but when trying to clog the bathroom air vent, he slips and falls landing on his head. When he wakes up, Ian is face-to-face with a growth of conversing mold. The Mold, as it refers to itself, wants to help Ian – clean up his apartment, shave and bathe, and attract the attention of his attractive next door neighbor who Ian stalks and ogles daily through his front door peephole. In return for this helpful motivation to live, The Mold demands that Ian follows The Mold’s precise instructions which might not be as helpful as Ian first thought.
The Don Thacker directed dark comedy is a surreal voyage into the internal life struggle of Ian Folivar, played beautifully by Adrian DiGiovanni, who directs his own downward situation making the audience part of Ian’s life. Ian is a character that is aware of his flaws but can’t accept his life and his analysis is that “life is shit” and is dangerous so shutting himself in his small apartment fairs way better than living the conventional life. “Motivational Growth” shares commonalities with prior cult favorites; one of those favorites is the Peter Hyams directed and John Ritter starring film “Stay Tuned” to where Ian becomes sucked into eccentric television programs he was viewing before Kent blew a fuse. Also, another cult favorite film, Don Coscarelli’s “John Dies at the End,” which shares that wacky fantastics of dark and ironic situations. All three of these dark comedy romps are in a small, rare genre group that dares to be different and do well at it.
The Mold is an unique, life-like creation of filth that can actually make you feel the fungi-filled griminess lying within between the nooks, crannies, and crevices of your body. A job well done by Thacker and his The Mold puppetry team led by special effects supervisor Steve Tolin of TolinFX. They really did an amazing job creating a practical effect living-being that works in sync with the iconic voice of Jeffrey Combs whose voice fits as The Mold’s persona – confident and inspirational with a hint of cynicism. The interactions between Ian and The Mold becomes symbiotic where Ian needs The Mold to rejuvenate his depressed life back to order and back to the land of the living while The Mold needs Ian to fulfill it’s inauspicious desires for Ian’s “well-being.” When Adrian DiGiovanni interacts with The Mold, he’s interacting with an actual character in the room and not a hokey-hapless effect. You have to hand it to DiGiovanni in forming a believable dialogue and relationship between himself and an inanimate object such as the lowest scum, excuse me – fungus, on Earth.
What I adore about “Motivational Growth’s” plot is the mysterious time period that it’s set in as many references point to the late 1980’s to the early 1990’s with the video game imagery, the television personalities, and the hairdos and clothing lines of characters in Kent’s hosted top shows Ian mindlessly views. Ian, himself, is stuck in time not knowing what a Plasma TV was which would fall right in line with the time frame above since Plasma’s didn’t start rolling around until the mid 90’s. I also like the peculiar characters Ian encounters even though his setting his solely set in his cramped apartment. Box the Ox, played by the intimidating Pete Giovagnoli, pinpoints his character perfectly as a seemingly overbearing, yet somewhat absent and simple minded, landlord who threatens Ian with off-the-wall metaphors, thus making him fun to watch and see how Ian attempts to interact with Box until Box cuts him off all the time even if Ian is provoked with a question by Box the Ox. Ken Brown as Plasmoday is by far my favorite. With a creepy face and creepy mannerisms, Plasmoday had too short of a role and I thought he would make a return to Ian’s abode to lick his TV again, but in the character’s short amount of screen time, Brown is able to up-play the oddity that embodies Plasmoday with such passion that it’s hard not to love the character.
“Motivational Growth” molds itself into greatness amongst cult movies. The nitty-gritty portions are grossly stimulating and will sure to have you jump in the shower for a quick rinse. Whether or not Ian is suffering from brain trauma, purgatory, or just to awake to a nightmare scenario, the story is left open for interpretation, giving the audience a chance to determine the ending for themselves which is always fun in my little black book. The MVD Blu-ray is spectacular technically. Super clear with no disturbances in the transfer. The Hi-resolution downplays the obvious practical effects on The Mold but that only brings more charm to the film. The sound is clear and the extras are plentiful. I’d suggest “Motivational Growth” to anyone – even to a neat freak with cleanliness issues.