Mar 12, 2017

[Movies] Tickled (2016)

Exploring the Netflix library has become a bit of an odd hobby for me and it can be quite surprising what they choose to add. Sometimes you get classics from many decades ago. Other times you get quirky niche features that you don't expect to find.

This was the case with Tickled, which is a quirky documentary about the odd world of professional tickling. The feature is a bit notorious both for its subject matter and the many legal actions that the film has been the subject of in turn. And that kind of a deal is hard to completely ignore.

So yes, I had first heard about the series because of its legal troubles and I was surprised to find it available on Netflix fairly soon after its initial release. And it's not like it was a big Hollywood release or anything - documentaries of this nature have a nasty habit of getting lost in the abyss that is direct-to-video releasing.

I appreciate having seen it. But I'm not fully certain how I feel about things.

Synopsis: Tickled is a documentary film directed by David Farrier and Dylan Reeve. Farrier also narrates this film that tries to dig into the world of "competitive endurance tickling". It was originally a Kickstarter project.

David Farrier is a "light entertainment" TV reporter that goes over the usual sort of videos you expect to become memes as part of his job. One day he encounters online videos about supposed competitive endurance tickling and he figures that there must be a story there. He reaches out to the indicated video producer Jane O'Brien Media but his inquiries are received very negatively to the point of being outright hostile. This only piques Farrier's interest further and so this documentary comes to be.

Jane O'Brien Media resorts to very personal attacks on his person while vehemently defending the videos as being a "passionately and exclusively heterosexual athletic endurance activity". The harsh emails escalate to legal harassment as they further their online inquiries and eventually Farrier and Reeve travel to Los Angeles in the hopes of finding answers.

What I Liked: Life is often stranger than fiction and the best bits of this film are the supposedly true events that just happen. The continued legal harassment by Jane O'Brien Media seems legitimate enough and it does make you think that there's something suspicious about all this. And as they keep digging, they keep coming up with more and more information that seems to be connected to the story including more and more witnesses coming forward to share what they know.

And really, the whole concept of treating tickling like some sort of competitive sport. And as a gay man, yes I've totally seen pornographic materials that play with similar ideas and so it's hard to imagine how a bunch of straight guys would get into this without thinking the same thing. Sure it probably paid well enough and I suppose that's fine on its own but man really who are these people? So yeah I got an odd kick out of all this as I wondered why they allowed themselves to be fooled in this manner.

What Could Have Been Better: The documentary is one that throws out a lot of information and they hope that the viewer will put things together. And as much as this approach seems factual and as impartial as possible, there are  moments that you can't help but wonder how plausible certain parts are or how they made certain conclusions and inferences on so little information.

For documentaries you generally expect there to be a sort of slant or direction in all this with the whole feature crafted in a manner that things tell a story. This film does have a bit of a story, but it also has a fair amount of fluff that pads things somewhat. I don't know if we really needed some off the bits with them thinking out loud given the same folks also narrate the movie as a whole with similar thoughts. Thus at times it feels a little heavy-handed.

TL;DR: Tickled is the sort of natural documentary that is born of unanswered questions and being told to stay away. The Team behind the movie may not have exercised the best prudence to keep safe but then that sort of journalistic determination can be somewhat impressive at times. And so the feature film gets 3.5 people suprisingly connected to this story out of a possible 5.

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