Victor Elaine is a local racing legend whose legacy is challenged by his greatest rival. Hoping to settle the score once and for all, the pair decide to square off in an epic demolition derby.
But in the sweltering days leading up to the big event, each driver faces up to their opposing views on life and racing. In doing so, they begin to come to terms with how they've shaped one another, and reach a new level of self-acceptance.
Written and directed by Mark Richard Miller and Dave Franzese (who also stars in the film) this short film's visuals feature bright, punchy colors and a studied eye for composition and quirky minutiae that would please any Wes Anderson fan. But underneath the playfulness in both images and narrative is a philosophical meditation on accepting the positive and negative aspects of who we are.
The storytelling follows a mockumentary format, fitting for a character study of two opposites. What drives the narrative forward isn't plot, but character, and particularly how two people propel and influence each other through competition and comparison. Victor Elaine is a feel-good hometown hero, espousing gratitude and a positive mental attitude as he hits the track. But his rival holds the opposite mindset: he's angry, vindictive and self-destructive. Those negative emotions fuel his racing, and his rivalry with his uber-positive enemy.
Most mockumentaries lean into satire, and while the film certainly has its fun in setting up the rivalry and building a world of racing, it has a welcome sincerity, particularly in terms of writing and performance. As Victor and his rival, Franzese plays both with an understated, almost mellow thoughtfulness. As Victor, he's sweet and earnest, but as the rival, he's sarcastic and cynical. But both have a preoccupation with the other, often judging and evaluating, which both keep them distanced. But their showdown will force them to face one another directly, with surprisingly existential results.
Loose, amiable and surprisingly sweet, "Duality Derby" is a lighthearted but earnest exploration of wholeness, and the difficulty of integrating our light and dark sides. Or, to put it into more archetypal terms, our light and our shadow. Naturally, everything ends in a demolition derby where the two rivals -- and their respective journeys of self-discovery -- literally collide, inflicting dents and wrecks upon one another. And in the rubble of destruction, they come to a certain understanding, acceptance and even friendship. They learn to appreciate the other's qualities -- and find and appreciate those qualities in themselves.