(director/writer: Josephine Decker; screenwriter: Donna Di Novelli; cinematographer: Ashley Connor; editors: Harrison Atkins/Josephine Drcker/Elizabeth Rao; music: Caroline Shaw.; cast: Helena Howard (Madeline), Molly Parker (Evangeline), Miranda July (Regina), Sunita Mani (Assistant Max), Okwui Okpokwasili (Nurse KK), Julee Cerda (Carrie), Felipe Bonilla (Santos, Cousin Elmer), Lisa Tharps (Laura), Curtiss Cook (George), Reynaldo Piniella (Jaime); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Krista Parris, Elizabeth Rao; OscilloscopeLaboratories; 2018)
“Well-acted low-budget aesthetic film that might impress even if seemingly going the mumblecore route without any easy solutions to the problems it raises about acting, maternal love and being biracial.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Indie improv American filmmaker Josephine Decker (“Thou Wast Mild and Lovely”/”Butter on the Latch”) leaves us scratching our head over its stylish use of language and of its experimental filming (jump cuts, sudden dream sequences and surrealist scenes) in this absorbing well-acted low-budget aesthetic film that might impress even if seemingly going the mumblecore route without any easy solutions to the problems it raises about acting, maternal love and being biracial.
The script by Donna Di Novelli and Decker is both questionable and at times electric, trying to be spontaneous through improv.The drama pivots around a working-class Queens family. The white Regina (Miranda July) is a somewhat out-of-control single mother of a sixteen-year-old high school black girl named Madeline (Helena Howard, a mesmerizing debut). Madeline is an acting prodigy suffering from mental issues and is the youngest member of a Manhattan-based experimental-theater company run by Evangeline(Molly Parker), a pregnant director, trying to regain her artistry through vamping Madeline’s artistic instincts. Madeline is the tense student striving to gain entry to Juilliard’s acting program.
The still searching for her inner-self Madeline, who thinks of herself as a cat as she follows her teacher’s acting exercise, was just released from a mental institution after striking poor mom with an iron.The plot centers around a maternal tug of war between the two women, mom and the theater director, over the affections of the troubled teenager. The narrative blurs the lines of reality and, for that matter, of acting. Be warned that this is not an easy film to view.
REVIEWED ON 1/1/2019 GRADE: B https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/