Introducing Jodea is a film-set take on the Pretty Woman structure. Zac (Jeff Coppage), a down-on-his-luck director, enters a wager to see if he can mount a comeback by transforming an aspiring actress into a star. Through a strange sequence of events — first firing her and then literally running into her — Zac settles on Jodea (Chloe Traicos) as his subject. In the process, he learns a lesson about respecting women and she breaks free from her social cocoon. They fall for each other. Although Zac starts out shallow and chauvinistic, and Jodea is initially meek, the two of them learn lessons about life and art that could only be taught by one to the other.
Traicos also wrote the script and clearly thought hard about adding a modern spin to the gender relations in the traditional plot of “man improves woman on a bet.” What lessons could a man who enters such an inherently misogynistic wager learns besides “women are people, too?” Even though the script feels like it could’ve used more tightening and revisions, there’s an undeniable sweetness and authenticity to the story that feels written by someone willing to talk bluntly about an industry that has, time and again, empowered men to play their own Pygmalion-style games with unsuspecting women.
Unfortunately, the filmmaking is rough, to say the least. The audio design is deeply frustrating and makes the film difficult to sit through. Every character sounds like they’re talking with an echo; ADR lines of dialogue by off-screen speakers might as well be spoken by disembodied ghosts given how scanned they sound. Low-budget films can be forgiven for technical hiccups, but the entire sonic experience of this 100-minute film is awful. Worse yet, the production tries to make its poor natural audio and lack of Foley effects work with constant music that sometimes drowns out the dialogue. There’s no coherent design philosophy to how Introducing Jodea sounds, and it makes the film hard to watch.
And that’s a shame, as its heart is in the right place. No, the characters don’t always sound naturalistic. No, the comedy beats don’t consistently land. Your mileage may vary with how much you believe the chemistry between the two leads, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt. Traicos is an adept comedic actress, and the film’s first half (which features the attempted acting lessons) is a bit funnier than the latter portion of the film. As far as low-budget indie romantic comedy goes, the fundamentals are here and the perspective is a positive, unique one for its genre. On the technical side of things, though, it’s just a really difficult sit.