Friday, November 30, 2012

EEGA



Well, this is something of a first for me.  Although I watch a lot of movies from a lot of different countries, I must admit that my knowledge of Indian or Bollywood cinema is very, very limited.  I have seen very little and what I know about it is probably only clich├ęs and not really the truth.  I just assumed that they were all about love, are very P.C, are filled with song and dance numbers and all seem to have ridiculously long running times while wallowing in melodrama.  I am sure this is not even close to the reality of it all, but whenever I hear about a Bollywood film this is my instant reaction.  Recently though, I had been reading and hearing a lot of very positive press about an Indian film named “Eega”.  There is nothing strange about that until you hear what the film is actually about and then you start to wonder just how this could be true.

At the beginning of the film, “Eega” is a traditional romance as we follow a guy, Nani, who has been trying to woo a micro-artist named Bindhu for the past two years.  They are neighbours and he regularly watches her.  Not wanting to appear too eager, Bindhu basically ignores the smitten boy although in truth she loves his attention.  Bindhu also works at a charity for disadvantaged youths and one day when trying to find investors for the charity she meets Sudeep who is an incredibly wealthy man.  Sudeep basically owns the city with his enormous wealth and is used to getting what he wants.  Upon meeting Bindhu he immediately falls in love with her and expects her to just fall at his feet.  He organizes a “date” to discuss the charity and to give him a chance to seduce the young girl but when he pulls his best move Bindhu is distracted by Nani, who of course is following her.  Sudeep is outraged and swears he will make Nani pay.  Later that night, Bindhu finally reciprocates her love towards Nani who is just ecstatic.  Just as he is about to enter her apartment he is snatched up by Sudeep and his thugs and is beaten to death.  From here the film changes dramatically as Nani is then reincarnated as a common housefly and remembering his previous life, he goes out for revenge against the man who killed him.  However, he is just a fly so how is he possibly going to be able to do this?

Yes, you read the above synopsis right.  “Eega” is a revenge film with a fly as the protagonist.  I know what you are all thinking, there is no way that this film is any good, am I right?  Well, if that was your question, you are so wrong because “Eega” is so good, it is just brilliant.  Director S.S. Rajamouli has handled the material perfectly and has made one of the most entertaining films of 2012.  Honestly I wouldn’t have believed it unless I saw it with my own eyes, but it is true, this film is fantastic.  It is fast paced, exciting, funny, romantic and is filled with some eye-popping action sequences.  I will admit that I found the opening half an hour a little bit arduous with the melodramatic romance and over the top song and dance numbers.  I also really hated the performance by the guy who played Nani (who strangely is billed as Nani himself), it was so cheesy and one note and he really grated on me the whole time, but once he died and got turned into a fly, “Eega” becomes a whole other thing.  This is exciting cinema and I love watching a director taking on an idea that his no right to work let alone be any good, and respect that idea and make gold out of it.  This is really what Hollywood is lacking these days; someone taking a chance on a new idea.  Sure, it may not always work as well as “Eega” but audiences are sick of seeing the same old tired stuff constantly rehashed.

 I thought Samantha Ruth Prabhu was just adorable as Bindhu and it was easy to see why these guys would fall in love with her.  It’s true that some of her acting choices in the film (especially in the second half) were a little broad but she had such a pleasant screen presence that it was easy to look past.  Likewise Kiccha Sudeepa also had great screen presence as Sudeep and also gave the best performance in “Eega”.  At the start of the film he is great as the suave and put-together businessman, and is menacing as the heavy while killing Nani, but he really is at his best when he is being terrorized by the fly.  His performance is brilliantly comedic and his timing is spot on.  He is so funny the madder he gets, especially during an important board meeting when all he can think about is flies.

The best thing about “Eega” though is it’s special effects.  Obviously the film is not going to work if the filmmakers cannot make the fly believable.  They succeed royally because everything this fly does is believable (in the context of the film) and the design of the actual fly has been very well handled.  I am not a fan of overly used CGI, but let’s face it, there is obviously no other way to do a revenge film with a fly without the fly being totally CGI.  It is obvious that Rajamouli did not rush the design of the fly, in fact after three months of work he was still unsatisfied with the design that they had come up with that he scrapped it and made the designers start from scratch.  This is important because this is one part of the film you do not want to make any compromises with.  Thankfully, the filmmakers also made the right decision of not letting the fly speak at any stage.  He is a fly, that’s it, he cannot speak and thus communicates through body language.  However he is able to communicate through writing (which he does twice in the film).  The first time is such a great and powerful moment in the film when he reveals to Sudeep just who he is by spelling out the words “I WILL KILL YOU”, seconds before the interval.

Again, I know what you must be thinking, how can a fly realistically take revenge on a person?  It is a good question which has been handled very well within the film.  Like I said before, Nani is now a fly, not a super-fly or anything like that, so he must work out how to get his revenge with what he has got.  Basically he starts by annoying the hell out of Sudeep so he cannot get any sleep at all, making the man very sleep deprived.  He then organizes a car accident by flying across Sudeep’s eyeball just as he is passing a truck causing a head-on crash.  Another inventive thing the fly does is fly into the ear of the man who is shaving Sudeep causing him to be cut by the razor.  The fly does a lot more but I do not want to ruin them because this is part of the enjoyment of the film.  I will say that Bindhu does find out his identity early on, and being a micro-artist she is able to make the fly a gas mask (so he is impervious to fly spray) and some sharp gloves so he can do extra damage.  The film does go a little into the realm of the fantastic when the fly starts to work out to build his muscles up so he can start to pick up things, but the filmmakers even make this believable because the heaviest thing the fly ever can pick up is a thin needle and he struggles with it too.

One thing that I really liked about “Eega” is the fact that the film has an internal momentum; it just keeps building until it’s thrilling climax.  It doesn’t have any mid-movie lulls in quality, once the revenge kicks in, the stakes get higher and higher, as the film gets more and more fun.  While I had a problem with the early songs in the film, the ones that are played over the scenes with the fly are often hilarious (“eega, eega, eega”) but pretty great at the same time.  In true Bollywood style also, the fly and a couple of his mates, do a choreographed dance number during the end credits which is very funny.  Another thing that I found enjoyable about “Eega” is the fact that it was shot with incredibly bright colours that pop.  Normally revenge films are shot with a very dark colour palette but that is not the case here at all.  Blues, greens, pinks and yellows are all common place in this world, which was nice to see for a change.  Films are becoming too dark and serious these days and have almost forgotten how to just be fun.

Overall, “Eega” (which translates into English as “Fly”) is just a blast to watch.  It is seriously so much fun.  I will be honest that I had my doubts too before watching it; I thought there was no way that the film could work on any level, but boy was I wrong.  This is exciting cinema and for once it was something original too.  The CGI work on the fly is just superb and all of the inventive ways he attempts to get his revenge are brilliant.  I know this is not my greatest in depth review that I have ever written, but I just want to get the word out at how good a film “Eega” really is.  It’s plot may sound strange but give it a chance, it has been really well done, even from a cinematic point of view.  It is a long film (at 145 minutes) but the time just flies (ha-ha) by.  Do yourself a favour and at least give “Eega” a go, you will not be disappointed.


4 Stars.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

EXCISION




Similar to my recent viewing of “Cosmopolis”, after my initial watch of “Excision” I was totally unsure about whether or not I liked the film.  This film about a disturbed teenager goes places so dark that it actually had me feeling queasy in places.  However after letting the film digest for a while, I have come to the conclusion that not only do I like the film, but it is also something of a mini-masterpiece, and something completely different for the horror genre.

The film is about Pauline, a delusional high school student, who lives at home with her parents and her cystic fibrosis afflicted younger sister, Grace.  It is immediately obvious that there is something a little off with Pauline, she is just plain weird and because of this she has to deal with, on a daily basis, the fact that she is one of society’s outcasts.  None of the kids at school want anything to do with Pauline because of her odd behavior and she has no friends.  At home, she has a very combative relationship with her mother who thinks that Pauline’s problems are due to growing up and being a teenager.  However Pauline believes that there is something wrong with her and in need of professional psychiatric help, but her parents balk at the idea of this due to the high costs involved and instead send her to a local priest where she can air her troubles.  The only good thing in Pauline’s life is Grace even though she is jealous of the attention and love she gets off her mother.  Pauline loves her sister and would do anything to see her get better.  The other thing that Pauline appears to love is blood.  She is drawn to it, dreams about it, and just seems to have an unhealthy relationship to it.  Pauline’s goal in life is to become a surgeon (no doubt related to the close contact with blood).  As delusional as this dream is, due to her terrible grades at school, Pauline believes that she has a gift and at night when she sleeps, this is all she dreams about.  As Pauline slips further away from reality towards insanity she finds herself drawing inspiration from her dreams as she comes up with the perfect idea (in her mind) to attain what she desires most of all: her mother’s love.

This is such a sad and painful film.  As I mentioned above, during my initial viewing of “Excision” I was really taken aback by the grotesque elements of the film.  It really does go to a number of uncomfortable places throughout the entirety of the film and it affected me in a way that I wasn’t even sure if I liked the film.  I have now seen “Excision” three times and I can safely say that it is a brilliant film and scenes that I once found to be shocking or grotesque no longer affect me that way anymore.  They are all just facets of who Pauline is as a person; a complex, lonely and mentally disturbed teenager just trying to make a connection in the world but not knowing how to go the right way about it.  It is the humanity of the story that really shined through during my repeat viewings and the truthfulness of what is being presented, rather than the gore or grotesque images.  At the core of the film, “Excision” is really about a teenage girl wanting the love of her mother.  Pauline is forever reminded by just how much her parents love her sister Grace by the constant fawning over her.  She is their angel and can do no wrong, and this is what Pauline wants; the kind of attention Grace always gets.  However this attention has a lot to do with the fact that Grace is sick and as such the parents are overly protective of her.  Pauline’s relationship with her mother is a complex one because it is so combative and although Pauline does not believe this, it is obvious that her mother does indeed love her.

“Excision” is filled with brilliant performances which make this odd story work so well, but two people in particular have to be highlighted.  The first is AnnaLynne McCord who plays Pauline.  She is simply amazing in the role and owns it from the very first frame.  I was not aware of McCord’s work on her television show “90210” where she plays a gorgeous blond girl, but here in “Excision” she goes totally against her glamour image to play Pauline as a straggly haired, pimply faced, brunette who is always slouching and is nothing that you would ever call attractive.  Her transformation into the role is simply amazing and looking at photos of her on the “90210” show and in real life, there is no way that you would believe this is the same woman playing Pauline; she totally commits to the role.  The only time you get to see some of McCord’s natural beauty in “Excision” is during Pauline’s dream sequences because she visualizes herself looking much prettier in these dreams.  McCord is so natural as Pauline portraying her awkwardness perfectly.  She goes to a number of very dark places in the film and never once flinches from the reality she is portraying especially towards the end.  There are a number of emotional moments particularly with her mother that McCord also never misses on.  It really is a stunning performance worthy of an Academy Award nomination.

The other person that has to be mentioned is Traci Lords who plays Pauline’s mother, Phyllis.  I was stunned at just how good Lords was here, she is amazing.  She plays the repressed, uptight mother role to perfection but she also hits some amazingly truthful emotional beats throughout the film.  One of the most painful scenes within the film that rings so true as well is after her and Pauline have had a fight at the dinner table and Phyllis states that no matter who hard she tries she cannot love Pauline and that she is a menace.  Pauline overhears this and bawls her eyes out.  It is so sad and Phyllis obviously was blowing off steam in the moment and did not mean what she said but it is such a small and painful scene.  Lords also has some funny moments with her husband Bob, played by Roger Bart, who has been so emasculated by this woman that his opinion no longer holds water at family mealtimes.  Lords’ greatest moment comes at the very end of the film, which obviously I cannot talk about, but it relies on a number of different emotions and reactions all playing out on her face at once and she nails it.  Her blood curdling scream that ends the film is just so chilling too.

As I mentioned above though everyone gives great performances here.  The film is littered with cameos and small roles filled by brilliant actors.  Malcolm McDowell gives a hilarious performance as one of Pauline’s teachers, Ray Wise likewise as the principal (love his moment with George Bush), John Waters plays the priest who Pauline is forced to air her troubles to and let me tell you when John Waters tells you that “you are a very disturbed young girl”, you had better believe it, and I cannot forget to mention Ariel Winter who plays Grace, she gives a beautifully nuanced and innocent performance.  As you may be able to tell, “Excision” is really more of a black comedy than a horror film and Winter has one of the best lines in the film delivered in dead-pan style: “Do you know what’s the worst thing about having cystic fibrosis?” Dad: “What’s that honey?” Grace: “When your friends die”.  It is actually a sad moment in the film but at the same time so funny, and Roger Bart’s reaction when his daughter says that is gold; he just looks so defeated.

Visually, “Excision” is very interesting because the director, Richard Bates Jnr., has gone against the norm of shooting everything in dark, dimly lit interiors.  For such a dark tale, you would assume that this is the way he would have gone but he does the opposite and makes the film pop with vivid colours and everything brightly lit as possible.  It is a bold choice that works very well indeed.  The only time the colour is drained from the film is during the finale which is very dark indeed.  Also the way the film has been blocked is quite strange, with characters always positioned centre frame, with very little camera movement.  It is quite odd to look at but it somehow draws you into the drama of the story as well.  When the film does become flamboyant though is during Pauline’s dreams.  This is when the imagery of the film is at its most disturbing and yet also its most beautiful.  Again, these scenes are filled with dazzling colours with the colour blue dominating heavily as well as the red of the blood that is flowing thick and fast.  The dream sequences are heavily stylized and completely different from the rest of the film and while these scenes are incredibly bloody, I would hesitate to call them gory, they are very artistic in fact.  Something I admit I missed on my initial viewing of the film is the progression within each of the dream sequences in regards to Pauline’s confidence and self worth.  In the final one we witness that she is at the top of the food chain looking down at everyone else, no doubt signaling in her mind that she is ready to do what has to be done.

Overall, I love Richard Bates’ debut feature “Excision” (which he also incidentally shot as a short back in 2008).  It is such an incredibly painful and sad human story that has been brilliantly acted and designed.  Both Traci Lords and AnnaLynne McCord give amazing performances within the film that give “Excision” its truth and heart.  Due to the extreme nature of the film (not to mention its finale), this is a film that will not be for everyone as it is very graphic and has some truly queasy scenes involving blood (not just any blood either, I am talking menstrual blood), however if you think you can handle these scenes, this is a film that is very much worth seeing.  Best of all is that it holds up with repeated viewings.  I highly recommend “Excision” , it is one of the films of the year, and look forward to whatever Richard Bates brings us in the future.


4.5 Stars.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

ARGO




There was a time back around the release of the disaster “Gigli” that the name Ben Affleck seemed to be the punch-line of every Hollywood joke.  No one took the guy seriously as he continually made poor decisions in the kind of films he chose to make and he seemed to be forever miscast.  Two examples of this are John Woo’s “Paycheck”, and the superhero movie “Daredevil”.  Affleck was always considered the weaker of the two, when he and his best friend Matt Damon hit the Hollywood scene and as Damon’s star continued to rise, it seemed that Affleck was destined to become a has-been fairly early in his life.  That said, personally I have always liked Ben Affleck on screen, particularly his collaborations with Kevin Smith.  He has a likable personality and is quite charismatic too, but there was no denying that a lot of his films were trash.  His career took an incredible upturn back in 2007 though when he made his directorial debut “Gone Baby Gone”.  What initially seemed like another actor getting a chance to direct just because of their celebrity rather than their talent, “Gone Baby Gone” proved to be anything but that, as Ben Affleck showed just how talented he was behind the camera.  Three years later he followed it up with “The Town” proving that his debut was not a fluke, this time taking a starring role in the film too.  It turns out that he understands his own needs as an actor better than most directors because he gives a great performance in “The Town” combined with his stellar work behind the camera.  “Argo” is Affleck’s third film as director; can he keep his winning streak going?

“Argo” is set in 1979 during a period of revolution in Iran where the American Embassy has been seized and hostages taken.  During the rampage, six American officials were able to escape the Embassy and hide out in the basement of the Canadian Ambassador’s Tehran home.  After staying hidden for over two months with the dangers of getting caught increasing every day, the CIA and the Canadian Government come up with a plan to try and get the diplomats out of Iran.  The CIA call in Tony Mendez (played by Ben Affleck) who is an expert in extraction.  After some initial brainstorming that comes up for naught, Mendez comes across the idea that he could fly in to Tehran and leave with the six under the guise that they are all working on a Canadian movie who are in Iran location scouting.  Knowing that for the plan to work, they need everything to be as real as possible which includes having a shooting script ready that would suit locations in Iran.  Mendez decides on a low budget “Star Wars” rip-off titled “Argo” to be the perfect candidate and then sets about first fooling Hollywood about the legitimacy of the project by holding casting calls, as well as inviting the media to the production announcement of “Argo”, sowing the seeds and creating a back story which ultimately would help convince the Iranians that “Argo” is the real deal.  Mendez then creates roles for the diplomats to play from producers, director, cinematographer and location scout for the fake movie, that will have to be memorized back to front before they attempt to leave the country.  There is no denying that the mission is full of immense risk which becomes even riskier as Iranian security forces start to work out who exactly the missing six diplomats are.

It is so good to be able to sit down and watch a film that is not only entertaining for its entire running time but for it to be intelligently made and not dumbed down, rather it respects its audience.  It is safe to say that Ben Affleck’s “Argo” is an absolute triumph and he is indeed now three from three.  There is just so much to like about this film that I do not know where to start.  Personally I think the strongest aspect of “Argo” is its very intelligent script.  Plot construction and dialogue are both exemplary, and in all honesty it was a breath of fresh air.  I am so sick of terrible scripts where characters say the most inane things.  There were a number of times I was just blown away by the fast paced and natural dialogue that was sprouted onscreen.  What is also great about the script is that it creates a world full of grays as no-one is demonized in the film and although you could say that the Iranians are the “villain” of the film, the reasons for what they are doing are presented and explained within also (without being judged).  Another aspect I liked in the writing was the subtle (and not so subtle) in-jokes in regards to Hollywood and movie making in general.  There was a lightness to these scenes that I really responded to, but at the same time everything just felt so real.  It is obvious that Ben Affleck understands the importance of a great script as it is common in all of his directorial outings, no doubt due to him being a screenwriter himself.

Another thing that Affleck obviously understands is how to cast a film because he has filled “Argo” with a phenomenal cast with veteran actors the likes of John Goodman, Bryan Cranston and Alan Arkin.  While you could say that Affleck is the lead of the film, “Argo” is really an ensemble piece and as good as each individual performance is, what is really impressive is just how well they work within the group.  No one is trying to steal the spotlight from anyone else.  Personally I thought Alan Arkin was truly amazing in his role of the producer of “Argo”, it is probably the showiest role in the film and he makes the most of every moment he is on screen.  He understands that while he may have been something once, he is now past it, but still is smart enough to know how the industry works which helps in getting “Argo” to move forward in development.  The scenes between John Goodman and Arkin are just brilliant with the two bouncing off each other; it is obvious that they are both having a hell of a fun time here.  Bryan Cranston, who seems to be having a late career resurgence of late, was also extraordinary in his brief but very important role as Jack O’Donnell, one of Mendez’s CIA co-workers.  Ben Affleck himself provides another fantastic performance in one of his own films filled with nuance and emotion, as we witness the stress of having to get these people to safety is having on his family life.

Another thing that makes “Argo” so compelling is Affleck’s attention to period detail.  From the costumes to the locations, everything just feels of the period, it all looks so right.  Amazingly, Affleck has done such a good job with the opening of the film in regards to detail that he was able to combine production footage with real footage (did I mention this film is based on a true story?) of the times.  In fact, newsreel footage of the crisis is sprinkled throughout the film combined with dramatic reenactments of certain moments.  One of the most impressive things when it comes to detail is the look of the diplomats.  When the end credits of “Argo” begin we are witness to photos of the real people that the film is based on, and all of them almost look identical to the actors playing them in “Argo”.  It is no doubt that these actors were chosen due to their likeness of the original counterparts.  One of my gripes with “Argo” though has to do with the fact that we are never really given access to the diplomats throughout the film.  We do not understand where the group is psychologically before the attempted rescue begins therefore it is hard to gauge whether or not members of the group could be a liability to the success of the mission.  In fact, for the majority of “Argo” we really know very little of these six people.  Getting back to the authenticity of the film, Rodrigo Prieto’s cinematography is beautifully gritty harkening back to the great political thrillers of the 1970s.  Thankfully Affleck and Prieto decided to shoot the film on celluloid to create that heavily grainy look that was so noticeable to films of that era.  During the opening of the film the camera work is very shaky representing the urgency of the moment but it settles down after this and is shot in a more classical style.  Although the camera work is never flashy, there is quite a number of really impressive camera moves throughout.  One in particular is when Mendez enters the CIA building and it weaves amongst the offices and Mendez himself until it ends in O’Donnell’s office.

Something that I very rarely talk about is the editing of films but William Goldenberg’s work here is just stellar throughout “Argo” that it just has to be mentioned.  There are a number of times he cross-cuts between two events that are so beautifully done that it just feels so organic and is never once confusing.  Goldenberg also creates a rhythm within the film that increases as the film’s suspense increases until it is unbearable in the white knuckle finale.  Speaking of the ending, although it starts to feel more like a movie here rather than a document of a time, Affleck has created some of the most high-tension suspense I have felt in a film for ages.

When it comes to negatives for “Argo” they are few and far between.  I have mentioned that I felt that the diplomat characters were not explored as deep as I would have liked, but other than a few historical inaccuracies made to streamline the film, there is little to dislike about “Argo”.  In regards to those inaccuracies I should point out that because I knew nothing about this story prior to the film, they did not affect me, but apparently the fact that Ben Affleck totally downplayed both the British and New Zealand Embassy’s part in the protection and extraction of the six has rubbed some people the wrong way.  The only other thing that I would have liked was to have the story of the actual American hostages at the Embassy be brought to the forefront a little more.  While I understand this is not their story and that they are always in the background, I still wanted a little more explanation about what was going on with the hostages.

Overall, Ben Affleck’s “Argo” is an absolute success and one of the best films of the year so far.  Directorially, Affleck is going from strength to strength with each picture he makes.  I love his portrait of the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979-80, it is layered (I loved the little moments where American culture is seen taking over Tehran), full of drama and incredibly suspenseful.  The film is packed with brilliant performances throughout and the attention to detail shown in regards to the period is outstanding.  I expect we will hear a lot about “Argo” around awards time and so we should, because it deserves all the praise it is getting, and if you don’t agree with me “Argo….fuck yourself”.


4.5 Stars.

 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

LOVELY MOLLY




Back in 1999, Eduardo Sanchez (along with co-director Daniel Myrick) terrified audiences with the worldwide phenomenon “The Blair Witch Project”.  At its time of release it was such a unique film, shot on a shoestring budget and filmed on video, it took on the big guys and not only won the battle, it totally destroyed its opponent.  “The Blair Witch Project” was such a success that it seemed to indicate that if you had the means at your disposal, anyone could make a movie.  As was soon proven by the huge glut of inept features made on a dime, that wasn’t necessarily the case; you also needed a good story and some talent behind the camera too.  Since his amazing debut though, Sanchez has barely been heard from in the horror scene.  It is not that he hasn’t been making movies, it is just that none have come close to matching the quality of “The Blair Witch Project” (it is tough starting at the top, just ask Orson Welles).  However, with his latest film “Lovely Molly” Sanchez has finally hit gold again creating a supernatural (?)  film  about mental illness that is as good as his first feature (story-wise, I mean, there is no way he will ever recapture the financial success of “The Blair Witch Project”).

“Lovely Molly” is about a newly married couple, Molly and Tim, who move back into Molly’s deceased parent’s house, only to have Molly haunted by a trauma from her past.  Throughout the film, it is obvious that something happened to Molly in this house, but we also learn that she is a recovering drug addict, no doubt brought on from her initial trauma.  As Molly slowly and continually withdraws within herself, Tim struggles to understand if his wife is back on drugs again or if something sinister is happening to her.  Even more disturbingly is whether or not she is a threat to injuring anyone including herself.

Eduardo Sanchez has created quite an intense experience with “Lovely Molly” which interestingly has the same opening as his most famous film; his leading lady talking and crying into a camcorder.  This is where the comparisons with “The Blair Witch Project” end though because “Lovely Molly” is its own thing, mainly concerned with how much a trauma can affect a person throughout the entirety of their life.  Similar to “The Exorcist”, the success of this film has to do with the opening scenes we see of Molly and Tim together, so happy on their wedding day.  These scenes are crucial so we can witness just how far Molly falls.  Sanchez creates the film with a sense of ambiguity where it can be seen in two different lights.  The first is that there is a supernatural presence within the story that causes Molly to do the things that she does, or the other, that everything that happens plays out in Molly’s damaged and fractured mind as she relapses on drugs and begins to remember the terrible things that happened to her when she was younger.  Personally I think the film is much stronger dramatically if it is indeed happening all in Molly’s head, and this is how I saw it.  If the supernatural presence were to be real, I think it would make the film far cheesier, where as I think it is actually trying to say something about how damaged a person truly becomes after they are abused by someone they trust.

The film belongs to lead actress Gretchen Lodge who plays the difficult role of Molly and is simply outstanding.  She fully commits to the role both physically and more importantly mentally.  It is heartbreaking to watch this girl slowly deteriorate before our eyes as she heads down the path of self destruction.  You truly believe that Molly is seeing what she says she is seeing because the terror is all in her eyes.  Lodge is naked at length throughout the film, not just in the flesh but also emotionally, and she does not flinch at all.  She goes to some very dark places during this story and presents them to us so honestly and heartbreakingly.  It is seriously one of the best performances of the year.  If Lodge was unable to make us believe of the reality that what her character was going through was real to her, than the film would just not work but she excels here and it is because of her performance that “Lovely Molly” is as successful as it is.

The other fine performance that I loved in the film was from Alexandra Holden as Molly’s older sister Hannah.  Holden plays Hannah as a damaged soul too but one who is coping better with the past.  There is no doubt that she has gone through some pain in her life as well as there is an evident sadness in her eyes but you can also sense some guilt too, no doubt due to the fact that she feels partly responsible to what Molly is going through.  The character of Hannah helps in the creation of the ambiguity of the film because while Molly really believes everything that is happening to her, you can sense that Hannah has seen this all before back when Molly was struggling with substance abuse.  The only problem with Hannah is that her character does some really stupid things in the film, not least openly smoking and offering a joint to a recovering addict.

Sadly, the performance from Johnny Lewis as Molly’s husband Tim just doesn’t hold any weight and he is regularly outclassed acting wise by the women he shares the screen with.  This ultimately causes Tim to be a very forgettable character which is a shame.

For the majority of “Lovely Molly” it is shot in a normal fashion but sporadically throughout it, video footage shot by Molly is shown to us.  For me this part of “Lovely Molly” just did not work at all and its excision ultimately would have made for a better film.  Within the footage we see Molly basically stalking another family, a mother and her two kids, from the neighbourhood.  It isn’t until late in the film that we understand why she is observing them and it does lead to two very dark moments towards the finale but this subplot ultimately feels extraneous and does a disservice to the balk of the main plot.  It creates a jarring effect as we are watching this girl descend into madness and then suddenly we are outside with a camcorder looking at a supposedly happy family.  You lose that intensity which has been building so well and it makes it very hard for the audience to get back into.

Despite this flaw (and a few idiotic character moments) I think Eduardo Sanchez has done a great job at creating an uncomfortable environment.  The (non-video) camera work is all handled very nicely and I was particularly impressed by the soundtrack that keeps audiences on edge.  He doesn’t use loud noises to accentuate a horror moment in cheap fashion rather he uses strange sounds to create a tension filled atmosphere.  The use of the folk-song  “Lovely Molly”, which is sung by Molly’s father almost calling out to her, is so damn effective and creepy at the same time.  Also the sound of horse’s hooves at regular intervals is brilliantly done and is just so chilling.  The film isn’t a gory one, although there are scenes of gore within it, and it isn’t filled with scenes designed to give you a quick jolt, however Sanchez has created a film with an atmosphere of dread that continues to get darker as the film goes on.

While the film is not perfect, I was still impressed with Eduardo Sanchez’s latest film “Lovely Molly”.  It is well known that I am a huge fan of films about the fractured mind and Molly’s descent into madness is an interesting and intense experience.  It has a standout lead performance from Gretchen Lodge that anchors the film within reality while at the same time Sanchez has created an ambiguity that leaves the door open to suggest that everything that is happening may in fact be supernatural.  Thankfully Sanchez is smart enough not to over explain things, particularly with the ending, which ultimately adds to the experience of “Lovely Molly”.


3.5 Stars.