Exercising his split personality, Childish Gambino stars in a film written by Donald Glover, (formally known as Troy Barnes): Clapping For The Wrong Reasons. The recently debuted short is 24 minutes of exactly what you wouldn’t expect from Donald Glover: it’s serious, quiet and incredibly sparse. There’s no Troy Barnes vibes throughout the film, there’s no over the top Childish Gambino levity: it’s mature and clean. Considering that Donald Glover’s involvement with Community has been waning and tumultuous of late, it’s obvious that he wants to move on from his biggest role as much as we don’t want him to—clearly, there’s only so much credibility this image can sell:
Clapping For The Wrong Reasons is mysterious in the purest sense of the word: as if in perpetual motion to gear up, the film whirrs about Childish Gambino’s lush mansion, interweaving between fleeting stories and candid interactions of the people that inexplicably inhabit its opulent walls. Nothing really happens in this film, which I suppose shows admirable restraint in its cyclical storytelling: we end with a shot that mirrors its first, but not with the hollow sense that nothing has changed—development is subtle, character build up is slow. Perhaps it isn’t the best short film you’ll see this year, but it’s one of the most surprising: this film won’t change you, but it won’t destroy you either—considering Glover could have made anything and everybody would have watched it anyway, it doesn’t indulge too much in being glaringly self-aware.
What most intrigued me about this film was how immaculately shot every frame appears, and how engaging 24 minutes with almost entirely diegetic sounds and elongated pauses can feel. Watching this is like a condensed, less profound, deeply Glover-centric version of Sofia Coppola‘s gorgeous feature Somewhere: it’s a quiet, affecting portrait that demands careful attention, with lucid, raw dialogue that retains a disturbing vein of reality. Where Coppola favoured excruciatingly slow tracking shots in to her subjects in Somewhere, Clapping For The Wrong Reasons sits its camera still to drink up the stunning mise en scène. Shot on film—an unfortunate rarity in the age of DSLRs that grant anybody with $2000 authorship to a crisp shots—we see Glover’s paradise mansion with a fridge that has space for days, a pool that is the stuff of dreams, a candid conversation about Arnold Schwarzenegger, appearances from Chance The Ripper, Trinidad Jame$ and Danielle Fishel, a nauseating scene at a bathroom sink, Donald Glover showering and a peculiar, recurring porn star.
Watch Donald Glover’s entrancing short below: