I may not have the slightest clue about Don Thacker’s crazy inspiration for Motivational Growth, but I can tell you one thing – The Mold knows. In fact, The Mold knows everything! The Mold knows what makes you tick, what’s holding you back, what you need to restore order back in your life, even if you don’t. The Mold is your partner, your guardian, your best friend. The Mold is your savior and you just don’t know it yet. Oh Jack, you don’t know The Mold, or why a clump of disgusting bathroom grime is talking in the first place, because only The Mold knows, and all we can do is trust it.
Sorry, I just blacked out for a second…wait, where did that paragraph come from? Oh yeah, Motivational Growth! I’m sure you’re completely lost by now, so here’s my plot summary where I attempt to bring you back to planet Earth.
Adrian DiGiovanni plays Ian Folivor, a slobbish shut-in who stopped going to work months ago, choosing a filthy life of nothingness firmly planted on his couch. Ian’s only friend is his TV Kent, but when the outdated electronic device finally burns out and goes to TV heaven, Ian decides to give up and kill himself – something he still fails at. Knocking himself unconscious, he awakes on his bathroom floor to a voice – a voice coming from a little mountain of mold. Referring to himself simply as “The Mold” (voiced by Jeffrey Combs), he declares his intentions to turn Ian’s life around. Yes, Ian is talking to fungus, and it wants to be his self-help guru. With literally nothing else to do, Ian accepts The Mold’s offer, and the two begin a self-affirming journey in the “safety” of Ian’s apartment.
There, make sense now? Probably not. You’re most likely even farther out in space now that you’re actually trying to grasp the notion of a man taking advice from a pile of dirt, but when said dirt is voiced by Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator), you tend not to care. Combs does brilliant voice acting as The Mold, bringing life to a silly rubber puppet fastened securely to the floor, working punctuated lines and mystifying dialogue to keep Ian always guessing. The Mold is a wry character, plays for perfect laughs, and interacts so well with Adrian as an actor. Not many men can take a fake, inanimate object and form an actual character, no matter how dirty and disgusting that character is.
This is Adrian DiGiovanni’s show though, as Motivational Growth takes place almost entirely in Ian’s apartment (aside from being sucked into his television programs). Ian spends a lot of time talking to the audience directly, working out predicaments and explaining his masochistic, narcissistic lifestyle choices that result in sores and depression, but he does so with proper leading man charisma, and for lack of a better term, charm. Yes, there’s nothing “Prince Charming-like” about a man with no drive, no goals, a beard full of week old food, and a penchant for wandering around in his crusty undies, but DiGiovanni generates wonderfully dark comedic entrainment through his character Ian. Strange, absurd entertainment nonetheless, but look no further than Ian Folivor comparing his life to a shit he takes during that same monologue as a perfect example of DiGiovanni’s, um, talents.
Writer/Director Don Thacker is the mad genius behind Motivational Growth who deserves his own applause for creating a low-budget, independent feature that feels like a big-budget Hollywood production. Cinematographer Bliss Holloway gets a shout out for the slick, deceptive camera work, which blew away the competition at this year’s New York City Horror Film Festival (in my eyes), while Thacker controlled the show. Aiding the stylistic grace was Alex Mauer’s chiptune soundtrack, which energized scenes with synthetic, 8-bit musical composition equal to playing an old-school Gameboy or Nintendo.
Everything about Motivational Growth is quirky, different, bizarre, original, and creative. These minute details help build an endearing quality that turns Don Thacker’s film into a hidden independent gem that adventurous cinema lovers will happily discover one late night on Netflix Watch Instantly.
Motivational Growth is an absolute winner. How many movies can you watch where the main character interacts with a pile of mold, eats whatever The Mold gives him, and does whatever The Mold says? There’s a hypnotic quality about The Mold, for audiences as well as Ian, because we know everything can’t be as it seems, or can it? Thacker’s universe certainly leaves plenty of questions, and although I have my own perception on Ian’s “adventure,” different viewers will certainly have their own opinion – each one like a unique snowflake. Is Ian alive? Dead? Dazed? Can The Mold really talk? Fuck it, who knows, but there’s something weirdly enchanting and motivational about Thacker’s story – so I guess The Mold really does know.
The Good? The Bad? Nah, you can categorize Motivational Growth under "The Weird," and I mean that as a true compliment.