Credit: Jon Bass
by Daniel Gorman Featured Film Streaming Scene

Carole & Grey — Jon Bass

February 16, 2024

God knows it’s hard to get noticed in the indie film scene these days, which is why Jon Bass’ new experiment in self-releasing warrants some attention. Bass, a “Hey, I recognize that guy” character actor who has appeared on TV, movies, and Broadway, has begun releasing his new feature Carole & Grey in 45 “episodes” via social media juggernaut TikTok, with each segment running just shy of two minutes. It’s an intriguing idea certainly, and it will be interesting to see how it pans out (one assumes that follower count and the elusive workings of an unknowable algorithm will have some say in the matter). But newfangled efforts at grassroots distribution don’t mean much if the movie in question is worthless. Thankfully, Bass has concocted an amiable, anything-goes comedy that takes advantage of potentially limited attention spans by indulging in non-stop jokes and casual absurdity.

The opening minutes of the film bring audiences quickly up to speed; Grey (Bass) directly addresses viewers, regaling us with his relationship woes. Unbeknownst to him, Grey’s pal Dario (Dario Ladani Sanchez) grew close to his girlfriend, Silvie (Rosaline Elbay). She eventually broke up with Grey and took up with Dario, taking their dog with her in the process. Depressed and with no other, better options, Grey has opted to stay friends with both of them, trying to play it cool despite his feelings of betrayal. In fact, Dario and Silvie are about to go on a romantic vacation, and Grey has offered to dog-sit for them. Dario calls and asks Grey if he can come get the dog from them, setting off an all-day adventure as our schlubby, pushover hero must travel from Brooklyn to the Upper West Side in an effort to do a favor for an ex and a friend who he doesn’t actually like very much. Thankfully, Grey’s best friend Carole (Mary Wiseman) has come along for the journey. She’s everything that he is not: energetic, extroverted, and lucky in love — when Grey shows up at her apartment, he discovers that Carole is sleeping with her stalker. The rest of the film charts this not-so-dynamic duo’s travels, with a bevy of colorful side characters popping up around every corner. Along the way, Grey learns to assert himself (just a little) and ends the film with at least slightly more backbone than what he started with.

The film’s modest aims match its shaggy charms; shot vertically to match the layout of a phone, mostly in closeups, and in black-and-white (with a few colorful exceptions), it’s not exactly a formally daring picture. But the performances are ace, with Wiseman mostly stealing the show as the more outgoing and audacious of the two leads. Over the course of their trek, Carole and Grey find themselves running afoul of a menacing, yo-yo-brandishing street gang, are briefly embroiled in espionage at a shopping center, seek advice from a subway-dwelling psychic, and eventually stumble across a literal shapeshifter. The waggish tone keeps things light and airy, and if Grey’s aw-shucks, nice-guy routine occasionally threatens to turn into a sitcom, Carole’s more down-to-earth sensibility keeps the proceedings grounded. It’s all very sketchy, which makes sense given its planned rollout, and like all sketchwork, some of the material lands more successfully. But at its best, Carole & Grey sort of resembles Celine and Julie Go Boating, with its emphasis on improvised vignettes and free-wheeling quasi-narrative. Interestingly enough, one gets the impression that the film could be watched in virtually any order, or even that the filmmaker could add new “episodes” indefinitely, gradually expanding the length and scope of the pair’s day trip. There’s plenty of room for more experimentation here, but Bass is off to a good start.

DIRECTOR: Jon Bass;  CAST: Jon Bass, Mary Wiseman, Steve Buscemi;  DISTRIBUTOR: N/A;  STREAMING: February 5;  RUNTIME: 1 hr. 10 min.