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dir-scr Clea DuVall
prd Paul Bernon, Sev Ohanian, Sam Slater
with Melanie Lynskey, Clea DuVall, Cobie Smulders, Natasha Lyonne, Ben Schwartz, Vincent Piazza, Jason Ritter, Alia Shawkat, David Bernon, Kira Pozehl
release US 26.Aug.16, UK 29.Aug.16
Speak your mind: DuVall and Lynskey
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
An engagingly twisted plot and especially strong acting bring this ensemble comedy-drama to life, sparking a continual sense of uncomfortable recognition for the viewer. So even if the themes never seem particularly complex, and the gyrations of the plot never terribly revelatory, the film is thoroughly entertaining as it explores some nagging truths about relationships.
Four couples are having a weekend reunion at a country mansion where they used to hang out as kids. Annie (Lynskey) and her fiance Matt (Ritter) arrive with Jessie (DuVall) and her partner Sarah (Lyonne). Jack (Schwartz) brings his much younger new girlfriend Lola (Shawkat), which annoys the others because they are planning to do something rather serious: confront the final arrivals, Ruby and Peter (Smulders and Piazza), about officially putting an end to their bickering marriage. But of course, broaching the subject isn't easy. Especially after the alcohol starts to flow.
The point, obviously, is that everyone on this holiday has issues that need intervention. Annie and Matt have been delaying their wedding date, perhaps due to Annie's recurring alcoholism. Jessie is struggling to settle down, still attracted to younger girls like Lola, who teases her by showing interest. Jack is still pining after his ex. And so on. In other words, it's clear from the start that it won't just be Ruby and Peter who are forced to finally face up to their issues.
Each of the actors invests plenty of personality into his or her character, and their interaction is so natural that much of it feels improvised. While Lynskey has the most colourful role as the group's mother hen, every one of them shines equally, creating both vivid individuals and a strong sense of the group dynamic that is created by this mesh of relationships. Although how these people are connected isn't completely clear (for example, Jessie and Ruby are sisters, but don't act like it).
While the trajectory of the overall story is constantly surprising, the individual strands have an odd predictability to them, mainly because the issues being dealt with aren't terribly revelatory. The central idea is that some relationships are worth saving, but you can never try to go back to what you had before. And of course the main thrust of the set-up is that when you feel like you need to help save someone else, you're probably the one with the problem. None of this is new, but the reminder is welcome.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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