The Eagles Are a Country Music Band

By Cody Wagner | Comedy
Old friends reunite for a Christmas dinner party, but a playful fight about country music turns ugly when a dog's death gets involved.

A group of friends are gathered for Christmas, sharing funny stories and catching up. Inevitably talk turns to an eternal debate: are the Eagles a country band, or are they a rock band?

The debate is at turns playful and contentious, laying out the hidden dynamics between the group. One man has brought his date — apparently the latest in a succession of young women in their early 20s — while the hosting couple seem at odds, passive-aggressively lobbing insults and contempt at one another.

But when the hosting husband, drunk and angry, unexpectedly reveals just how their dog died, the gloves come off — and passive-aggression turns into sheer bloody conflict.

Cody Wagner’s short film — directed by Wagner and written by Chloe Cuffel — clearly falls under the category of dark comedy, but it’s also an incisive, sharp-toothed and well-paced portrait of marital dysfunction and the dangers of passive-aggressive communication. Its first half functions as a social comedy of sorts, capturing the mores and attitudes of a certain type of young professional in contemporary Los Angeles, complete with witty banter, life neuroses, humble-bragging and the like.

The assembled ensemble of actors play off one another well, delineating the complex web of irritations, affection and confusion that rise and fall between them, especially as conversation begins to reveal their characters. The camera stays close and tight during what is essentially a long table scene, giving us a sense of a long-running history between friends-turning-frenemies. We also get a sense of the long-building and -simmering tension between the hosts, which leaks out in sideways insults and mutterings.

But when the husband reveals just what happened on their dog’s death, the simmering animosity comes to a boiling point, leading to an outlandishly paroxysm of violence that escalates the film into Western action-thriller mode. It’s shot in an almost cartoonish way, but the emotions underlying the fight are real — which is why each blow seems especially brutal. It would be an abrupt shift in tone and style, but the film’s underlying emotions have been so clearly laid out that the transition is actually strangely believable — which is why it’s so brutal.

The ending of “The Eagles Are a Country Music Band” is as a blunt and unflinching as a fist, playing out in a strange way like a old-style country b-side about drinking, marriage and murder. It gives new meaning to the idea of being mad enough to want to kill your mate — and gives apt warning about letting resentments, lies and anger fester. When passive-aggressive turns straight-out aggressive, it’s never pretty for anyone. In fact, it can get outright crazy.

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