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Review by Rich Cline |
dir Susanna Fogel
scr Michelle Ashford
prd Helen Estabrook, Jeremy Steckler
with Emilia Jones, Nicholas Braun, Geraldine Viswanathan, Isabella Rossellini, Hope Davis, Fred Melamed, Christopher Shyer, Liza Koshy, Josh Andres Rivera, Liza Colon-Zayas, Michael Gandolfini, Donald Elise Watkins
release US 6.Oct.23,
23/US StudioCanal 1h58
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
Is it streaming?
While this mashup of the romcom and horror genres is cleverly depicted and played, the film insistently pushes its themes. Writer Michelle Ashford and director Susanna Fogel have important comments to make, and perhaps going a bit over-the-top is necessary to get them through. But a couple of plot points are like noisy gear changes, impatiently forcing the issue with movie gimmicks rather than letting things play out organically.
University sophomore Margot (Jones) works in the local revival cinema, where she meets the tall, cute Robert (Braun). He's a rather awkward but nice guy who has cats, and they start chatting in text messages before finally meeting up in her biology lab. Disaster ensues, so they redo their first date with a movie. But Margot's mind continually races, imagining Robert as a serial killer. And for her the evening isn't as successful as he thought it was. So her question now is how to get out without hurting him. And without getting hurt herself.
An opening quote from Margaret Attwood sets the tone: "Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them." While maintaining comical touches, largely through Margot's no-nonsense best pal (Viswanathan), the story shifts into a battle between male and female perspectives. Margot's point of view emerges in comically violent cutaways, plus conversations with herself. But there is also an effort to see how this looks through Robert's eyes, even as he's increasingly cast as the villain of the piece.
This makes Braun's role especially tricky, and he dives in fully to make Robert charming but clumsy, more oblivious than intentional, even when things get very dark indeed. Jones maintains her likeable spark, radiating a sharp understanding of herself in each situation, even when she gets other things wrong. Her jagged interaction with Viswanathan's hardline Taylor is both amusing and sometimes intense, adding another angle to Margot's struggle to make her own decisions about what female power means.
This is the kind of film that almost overflows with challenging ideas about gender, specifically the way men and women struggle to see through each other's eyes. The filmmaking is rather heavy-handed in its provocations, using some convenient plot devices to push things in desired directions. But the cast, including a wonderful bunch of scene-stealing side players, delivers these ideas with intelligence and wit, leaving us with plenty to think about even after the script attempts to tie up the loose ends.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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