In A Hole In One, first-time writer-director Richard Ledes uses graceful camera moves and novel angles to frame a richly colored, darkly toned vision of the '50s, simultaneously fantastic and nightmarish. Like David Lynch, Richard Kelly, and the Coen brothers, Ledes relies on beautifully lurid imagery and dissolve-heavy editing to craft a style that looks cool and feels dreamy. He announces himself right from A Hole In One's opening shot: a blur of color over which the voice of Michelle Williams says, "My memories of the time leading up to my decision to get a lobotomy are fragmented."
But that line—and Williams' performance—may explain why Ledes has arrived so unheralded. Williams plays a gullible gangster's moll, depressed by the death of her shell-shocked brother and insistent that a lobotomy is her only hope to feel normal again. The flatness and dimness is part of her character, but Williams comes off maddeningly blank. Worse is her thug boyfriend, a psychobabbling swinger played by Meat Loaf Aday, who serenades his henchmen with a jazzy rendition of "Row Row Row Your Boat." Aday chews the scenery while Williams disappears into it, and Tim Guinee, playing the town romantic, strains to mediate. But even Guinee throws away his best lines, as when he invites Williams over for a pre-lobotomy drink, saying, "It's your last night of being depressed and confused … you may as well enjoy it."
The stars aren't entirely to blame. Ledes attempts a complicated, not entirely viable combination of moods and themes, and it'd be hard for any actor to keep up. He simultaneously evokes and spoofs a world where people take their cues from Life magazine, and he links a mania for lobotomies with the mutual spread of television and anti-communist paranoia. The film includes both a horrific, gothic lobotomy sequence and a parodic psychiatry symposium where a sign on the wall touts "super donuts" for mental health. A Hole In One looks and sounds better than the average indie film debut—Stephen Trask's junkshop-calypso score alone assures that—but at its core, it's just another affected quirkfest where misfits fall in love while another misfit chases after them with an ice pick.