Hanna Hall played Judith Myers – the elder sister of Michael Myers – in Rob Zombie’s HalloweeN (2007). Judith didn’t survive beyond Michael Myers’ childhood, so we didn’t get to see a whole lot of her in the movie (besides having a jerk tell her that he wanted to “do it” with a Michael Myers mask on). In Scalene, directed by Zack Parker, Hanna is one of the film’s three main protagonists. She plays a college student named Paige Alexander.
Scalene (2011) opens with Paige fighting against a burly woman named Janice Trimble. Before we can find out why they are fighting, the film’s opening credits are displayed. After that, the story shifts to an event before the fight.
At a meeting, we see Paige, her parents, a prosecutor, Janice with her son Jakob and their defense attorney all seated. They’re going over the details of a plea bargain. Apparently, the 26 year-old Jakob was charged with committing some terrible crime against Paige. Jakob seems to suffer from a neurodevelopmental disorder and he cannot speak.
While Janice maintains that Paige is lying and that Jakob is innocent, the defense lawyer states bluntly that, “It’s her word against his… and he can’t speak.” The terms of the agreement are that Jakob will be sent off to the state hospital for therapeutic rehabilitation for several years. Jakob is subsequently taken away.
It becomes apparent that Scalene’s story is non-linear. Things either unfold regressively or events are presented from different perspectives. The transitions between each piece of the overall story could’ve benefited from better editing. Sometimes, the screen simply fades to black. Another time, a dizzying montage conveys that the story is moving into the past.
The title of this film, “Scalene,” is a word used to describe a kind of triangle. A scalene triangle is one where the three sides are all of different lengths (and the three angles inside such a triangle are also different from each other). This film tells its story using those defining properties of a scalene triangle. The narrative unfolds from three different standpoints: Janice’s, Jakob’s and Paige’s. Each of these characters becomes the focus of their respective segments.
Jakob’s take on things is shot mostly from his literal point of view, we see exactly what he sees. It’s a confusing portion to watch since the filmmakers tried to replicate how Jakob’s disability affects his world view. Jakob suffers from “anoxic brain injury,” explains Janice. “It occurs when there’s a severe lack of oxygen to the brain.”
Paige had answered Janice’s ad seeking a care assistant. Janice wanted a break from caring for Jakob, while Paige sought to gain valuable work experience in the field of social work. Eventually, Paige becomes overly involved with Jakob and with what she believes is transpiring in the Trimble household.
Sometimes Hanna Hall performs with her eyes closed, half-closed or looking down but she’s decent in her role. The film lacks emotional punch. It is missing a dramatic subtlety that would help generate sympathy for the characters. However, the aforementioned elements do add to Scalene‘s realism (reality can be imperfect, harsh).
Paige’s perspective in Scalene is perhaps the one you will want to seek out, to learn her version of events. This latter half of the film unfolds smoothly, and the story raises questions for us to consider.
Overall, Scalene may be seen as a critique of the health, police and legal systems. Scalene calls them out for being reactive instead of preventative. These systems only act when something bad has already happened. They’re not known for being very proactive in stopping bad things from happening. In Scalene, Paige feels forced to take action because she believes that none of the aforementioned systems can help her.
A curious aspect of 2011’s Scalene is its relation to the film Compliance (2012). Margo Martindale, the actress who plays Janice Trimble in Scalene, looks like actress Ann Dowd, who plays Sandra in Compliance. For the duration of Scalene, I thought they were the same actress. The characters that Martindale and Dowd play in their respective films are also very similar. There’s much more to this. A Scalene versus Compliance piece is definitely in the works.
Scalene is a drama that has to be given points for striving to tell its story in an unusual way while maintaining a sense of plausibility. The role of Paige is a weighty one for Hanna Hall. She does an adequate job. Scalene‘s first half is somewhat unengaging because it takes time to get used to its narrative style. Once it shifts to Paige’s story, things become tighter and more focused. Even if you are able to predict what will happen by the middle of the film, you’ll still want to see how things happen.