Cover Versions (2018)

Taking a cue from Rashomon, Cover Versions is a mystery movie involving approximately 24 hours in the lives of four individuals, all of whom give us a different account of what happened during that time. Something happened at the end of this time frame, and they’re all interviewed in order to figure out how we got to that point. They’re all unreliable narrators, and while parts of their stories may be true, it’s up to us to piece together exactly what happened—until the movie tells us the truth, of course.

Here are the facts: Starfoxy is a band that is headed to a festival. Three of the members, Jackie, Byron, and Travis (Katie Cassidy, Drake Bell, and Jerry Trainor) have been together for several years, and their newest member, Kirk (Austin Swift), joined about a year ago. They’ve procured a house for the weekend, wind up having a party, and in morning learn that there was death. Who died and why? Well, you’ll want to watch the movie to find out.

It turns out that the Rashomon effect is still an effective narrative device, as long as central event being contradictorily recounted is interesting enough on its own. And when you’ve got death, drugs, and music, you’ve got enough there to capture the audience’s attention. The competing motivations of its characters makes each story feel unique, and looking for the little details and similarities in each version is fun for the audience.

That narrative and the device used to tell it is enough to hold our attention and make up for some of its weaker aspects. The inherent problem with the way Cover Versions has been constructed is that its characters completely change personalities from version to version, meaning there isn’t much actually to them. It might go a little too far in the way it changes things up. In most of them, the characters stay mostly the same and just a few select actions are changed; in this one, they are very different each time. It’s fun to see the actors get to do this, but it leaves little to hold onto.

That, in effect, makes the whole premise feel pretty thin. We ultimately don’t know much about who these people are, and you can really begin to feel the apathy setting in midway through. Who cares who did what and to whom when they’re all just completely lying anyway? You keep watching in order to get some semblance of a conclusion, and because seeing the small similarities in each story is inherently enjoyable, but it feels hollow once it’s over and lacks in staying power—most of what you just watched didn’t happen, after all.

Cover Versions makes for a decent in-the-moment mystery movie. It uses the Rashomon effect in order to tell its narrative, using unreliable narrators to describe (and show) events that took place over approximately 24 hours. It’s at its best when it’s focusing on the shared similarities between the stories, which is an inherently fun “spot them” exercise for the audience, although it takes its idea too far by giving us almost nothing from a character perspective to latch onto; they change too much from story to story, leaving little “truth” for us. It has its moments, and it’s not a chore, but it leaves a hollow feeling after it’s over.

Conclusion: Cover Versions is a decent in-the-moment mystery movie with little staying power.

Recommendation: If you like unreliable narrators, Cover Versions might be worth checking out.

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