Tickled | Directors: David Farrier & Dylan Reeve | Rating: 10/11 |
The premise of Tickled sounds completely absurd: New Zealand-based TV journalist and personality David Farrier (who specializes in covering the bizarre side of life) is sent a strange video (from a friend) regarding “competitive tickling.” The idea of this intrigues Farrier who decides to investigate the company that offers all-expense paid trips to Los Angeles (and substantial money) to young, male athletes to participate on camera in “competitive endurance tickling.” What begins as a joke between him and his co-director, Dylan Reeve, turns into a dark look at cyber bullying and the dangers of money and power in the hands of the wrong individual.
The film first takes a strange turn when Farrier, an out gay man, reaches out to Jane O’Brien Media for a possible interview on “competitive endurance tickling.” To his surprise, he’s met with a barrage of homophobic slander and threats of lawsuits. Intrigued, he and Reeve decide to continue their investigation even further and head to America to get some answers.
Once stateside, they have trouble finding a single competitor to speak to. Eventually they locate one who reveals that, after requesting the footage of him being tickled be taken off the internet, he is subjected to vicious public harassment and slander, going so far as to ruin his chances to become a pro-football player. This shocking interview sends the pair on subsequent interviews (amid threats of lawsuits from Jane O’Brien Media) only to uncover even more disturbing acts from Jane O’Brien Media and the most shocking reveal since the documentary The Imposter.
Part investigative documentary, part comedy, and part drama, Tickled is intriguing from start-to-finish. Farrier and Reeve never overpower the subject matter: their presence is, indeed, necessary as they serve as surrogates for the audience, yet never steal attention away from their subjects. The two clearly have an odd sense of humor that gets inserted through some laugh-out loud edits (in one scene a large bird is seen attacking a rodent as a somber voice-over plays) and never take the idea of “competitive endurance tickling” too seriously. However, they do understand the severity of the injustice they uncover, and why this story needs to be told. It could be argued that Tickled is an even more insightful look at the imbalance of power in America than a Michael Moore film, but unlike the tone of Moore’s works, Farrier and Reeve do, indeed, want to tickle their audience with a story that truly is on the bizarre side of life.