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Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr Emma Forrest
prd Luke Daniels, Brandon Hogan, Scott LaStaiti
with Jamie Dornan, Jemima Kirke, Lola Kirke, Ben Mendelsohn, Billy Crystal, Jennifer Grey, Alice Eve, Scott Caan, Joel Virgel, Kate Zenna, Lindsey Garrett, Prakash Amritraj
release US 8.Feb.19
Light and prickly, this comedy-drama prowls around a group of likeable, messy characters in sunny Los Angeles. There are two romances at the centre of the plot, neither of which develops along an even remotely straight line. Writer-director Emma Forrest is puncturing the movie idea that happy relationships just happen by magic. For a comedy, this is all rather grim, but it's also profound.
"You're not going to get obsessed with me, are you?" Nick (Dornan) asks one-night-stand Andrea (Jemima Kirke), reminding her that he has just split from his girlfriend (Eve). Nick is famous for his book about working in the Middle East as a doctor, while Andrea is a promising-but-blocked writer who lives with her younger sister Tara (Lola Kirk), a beauty therapist who's having her own relational issues with Aussie rock legend Martin (Mendelsohn). For answers, Tara turns to a friendly rabbi (Crystal). But nothing feels quite right for any of these people.
Forrest nicely dovetails these two relationships, coming together and growing apart through a wandering plot that feels a bit overlong. The dialog is full of pithy observations that expose the characters' insecurities encased in cynicism. As these people reveal big issues from their pasts, the film becomes an increasingly astute observation on how much work it takes to create and maintain a solid relationship. It's a bracing exploration of the thorny route through our deepest feelings, including thoughts we don't realise we have.
The actors are quietly confident, creating vivid characters without pushing anything. Emotions are never sentimentalised, corny melodrama never swells up. Jemima and Lola Kirke are terrific at the centre of the romantic chaos, young women whose messy approach to life actually makes sense in the context of their intelligence and emotional acuity. Dornan and Mendelsohn are also solid as the befuddled men in their orbits, battling their own demons and unable to simply fix everything.
With its meandering approach, the film often feels like it circles around mimicking the aimless approach of its life-weary characters. A bracing edge of humour helps keep things relatively lively, but the narrative is offhanded and sometimes unfocussed. This is clearly deliberate, echoing the rhythms of real life with all of its confusing, frustrating fits and starts, misplaced affection and awkward interaction. Still, with gifted women in key roles (including editor Sophie Corra and cinematographer Autumn Durald), Forrest's vividly female approach to storytelling is a blast of fresh air.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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