In ‘Motivational Growth,’ a 30-something begins taking advice from a fungus in his bathroom after a failed suicide attempt.
Grown men with imaginary companions are not a new concept. Jimmy Stewart had a man-sized rabbit named Harvey and more recently Elijah Wood and the talking dog Wilfred are inseparable. In most cases though, these creative friends have been of the more likeable furry variety. In Motivational Growth, the speaker of questionable existence is an enormous mold that claims to have his person's best interests at heart.
Ian Folivor (Adrian DiGiovanni) is the textbook definition of loser. He has poor hygiene, lives in a dump and doesn't leave the house. He just sits in front of the TV day and night, flipping channels. When Ian comes around after a failed but innovative suicide attempt, someone is speaking to him. The voice belongs to The Mold (Jeffrey Combs), a giant clump of fungus growing in a corner of his bathroom. The smooth-talking mold is encouraging and wants to help Ian get his life back on track – but his methods are not always agreeable.
It's nearly impossible for this movie not to be gross sometimes, so writer/director Don Thacker does not shy away from the more disgusting parts of being a mold's protégé. Ian is told to ingest things no sane person would touch without gloves, but it is presented as an integral part of the story. The key to making this film a success is it balances the ick with a very clever narrative.
Ian’s conversations with The Mold are intelligent and nearly inspirational. Ian’s progress is unbelievable. Within days the furniture in his apartment is visible again and so is the skin on his face. He even regains an active interest in the opposite sex, fortunately setting his sights on a woman who finds his quirky personality endearing.
In spite of questioning The Mold’s advice, Ian continues to follow it because his life is actually improving. The existence of the repulsive motivator also comes into question more than once, but ultimately the most compelling question involves Ian’s state of being. These existential concerns are seamlessly incorporated into the bizarre narrative.
The ambiguous ending may not be satisfying, but it’s one of the sharpest gross-out movies ever produced.
Motivational Growth screened as a part of the 2013 Toronto After Dark Film Festival.
Director:Don ThackerStarring:Jeffrey Combs, Adrian DiGiovanni and Danielle Doetsch