Please Punish Me is short film best classified as a “dramedy.” Part drama and part comedy it follows Scottie Lee (David Sackal) and his deep dissatisfaction with his job. Not that things are going badly. Scottie has just gotten a huge promotion; make a partner, doing work he detests.
Made from a screenplay written by Rich Camp, based on a story by Tom Paolino, the film looks at the guilt successful people may feel when their jobs are overly rewarding. Directed by Chris Esper, Please Punish Me is a “day in the life of” film.
There is not time spent on backstory, except for a defining moment at the start of the 14 minute film. Scottie is on his way to work. He pops a banknote into a homeless woman’s coffee cup. The note floats in the liquid and Lee apologizes. Immediately after a cop rousts the young woman and makes Scottie take his money back.
This scene sets up Scottie Lee for us. He is, overall, a nice chap who wants to be kind to others. At his job, the man is wildly successful and has just been made the youngest partner this firm has ever had. Lee is uncomfortable and sits sketching while waiting to give his “thank you” speech.
A co worker, who sneaks into the supply cupboard to smoke weed, suggests an S&M parlor where they can “help you get right.” The establishment’s name is “Punish Me Palace.” Scottie decides to give it a try.
Once there he meets a novice dominatrix who gives him much more than he bargained for.
The film shows the older board members as semi articulate cretins. Puffing big cigars and sounding more like animals than the hierarchy of a company. Lee clearly hates working here but his success makes it difficult for him to leave.
Scottie wants to be a cartoonist but feels that his lack of practice holds him back. Michelle (Joanna Donofrio), the new dominatrix, talks to Lee and their encounter proves to be life changing.
The message here is simple; enjoy what you do or work at what you hate for better money. Please Punish Me is presented as comic book/graphic novel; with saturated lighting and framed shots that evoke set pieces. (It also makes one think of the 1970s in terms of textures.)
The actors do well. Sackal in particular manages to bring a lot to his role. At times he seems to channel his inner Don Adams in an effective comic move that makes his character quite likable.
There are some sound issues. In a few places the score overrides the actors and in others they dialogue is too loud. In both cases the end result is jarring and it interrupts the story.
Please Punish Me is an entertaining film. The main protagonist is a character we can get behind and empathize with. His sense of not deserving his success is understandable. We also feel close to single mother Michelle.
The characters in the S&M parlor are funny. Their use of stock German accents tickles the funny bone as does the madam’s annoyance at being turned away. Kudos to Mark Carter and Lorrie Bacon for their comedic performances.
Overall this is a 4 star film. It entertains, despite the odd sound issue, and the ending has a
“Pretty Woman” feel to it. A film that has good pacing and an interesting premise that is well worth a look.