A storytelling technique that has become increasingly more popular in the last few decades that is often used in artier films is breaking your film into sections or chapters. These can be used to show a simple passage of time or to give a thematic tone to the next scene, something for the audience to keep in mind. Sideshow takes the simple premise of a breaking and entering gone awry into an ever-growing mystery that is then elevated by its unconventional story breaks.
Pendrick’s (Les Dennis) career hasn’t been that same since he fell off the stage performing for the troops in the ’80s. It’s just been one miserable act to the other, mystifying gullible people here, there, and never being paid enough. Hated by his manager and hated by the crowds, all he wants to do after another miserable gig is get drunk and go to bed. Tonight, however, it’s not going to be that simple. He has two unexpected guests, one that is looking for money and one that is looking for answers. This may be the first situation that he isn’t going to be able to weasel his way out of, and it may be his last.
There is something inherently captivating about a simple plan gone wrong whether it is a heist, a superhero’s plan, or in the case of Sideshow a burglary. Watching something simple become increasingly complicated as the stakes are raised makes the tension all the more palpable. What sets this film apart though is when we learn that this isn’t simply a heist gone wrong and it becomes increasingly clear that one of the characters has ulterior motives. It is in these moments that the drama is heightened while still allowing for the more comedic moments to come through.
So when it comes to breaking up the film into sections Sideshow leans into the theme with each one being a word associated with the carnival/circus, one definition being the literal definition, and the other being a definition that is related to the situation that the next chapter is going to explore. The title itself being defined as a small show at a larger event as well as a minor incident that distracts from something more important setting up the breaking and entering being only a front for the robber’s true intentions. These little breaks often have fun comical timing as well as create great anticipation for what is to come when you realize what the definitions are being used to set up.
Mysteries in themselves are very hard to execute well for the simple fact that it takes great planning and often clever uses of a setup pay-off model of storytelling. As was written in The Crimes of the Black Cat review, without properly setting up the clues the revelations end up falling flat and that is not the case with Sideshow. While it has a dry sense of humor about it, the film has so many clever moments, an ending that had me laughing out loud, and I highly recommend checking it out.
8 out of 10