I enjoy being surprised when watching a movie and these 4 movies were full of surprises.
Flower grabs you from the first scene and it’s the amazing performance of Zoey Deutch that captivates.
Seventeen-year-old Erica Vandross (Zoey Deutch) isn’t like most teenage girls. When school’s out, for example, she and her two best friends seduce older men in order to extort money from them—you know, typical extracurricular activities. Much of Erica’s rebellious attitude stems from the abandonment of her biological father, who’s in jail and has left her similarly free-spirited mother (Kathryn Hahn) to raise Erica alone. Everything changes, however, when mom invites her new beau (Tim Heidecker) and his overweight and fresh-out-of-rehab son (Joey Morgan) to move in with them, giving Erica an unexpected connection to the “hot older guy” (Adam Scott) she and her friends obsess over at the local bowling alley.
Where Flower goes from there is part of director/co-writer Max Winkler’s film’s unpredictable energy and edgy charm. Executive Produced by Danny McBride, Jody Hill, and David Gordon Green, Flower blossoms from female-driven coming-of-age comedy into bold and uncompromising directions as its unpredictable narrative unfolds. Front and center throughout is an excellent and multidimensional turn from Zoey Deutch, who solidifies her emerging star status with a performance that’s hilarious, raw, brash, and sneakily tender.
The handheld style served the material very well. The story moves in all kinds of directions while staying grounded in reality.
Working single mother Amara leaves her two boys at home with domineering Aunt Rose, and Rose has her eyes on the older son, Ulysses. Stealing nylons, wearing his mother’s shoes: Ulysses is just beginning to explore his identity and sexuality. When Rose demands an end to it, the boy escapes to the Village and discovers both supportive friends and the inspiration to become exactly what he is feeling inside. The problem: Rose is waiting back home. Luka Kain delivers a magnetic performance as Ulysses—who in his best moments hears music all around, and yet faces some of the worst circumstances imaginable—in this drama about finding a literal sanctum, so that you can find yourself. It’s a complicated life Ulysses leads, and Damon Cardasis’s musical coming-of-age story is all the better for tackling multiple sides of the young LGBTQ experience, with compassion and heart combined.
Saturday Church mixes in musical numbers in a way that I enjoyed. It’s always inspiring to see a story of someone discovering their identity and the people that support them.
Enjoying their normal lives in mid-’90s suburbia, Zach and Josh are best friends with numerous shared interests, chief of which is an attraction to their classmate Allison. One seemingly routine day, along with two other friends, Zach and Josh borrow the latter’s older brother’s prized samurai sword to goof around in the local park. But the afternoon soon spirals out of control. Wracked with guilt, Zach struggles to assimilate back into high school life, even as Allison begins to show a romantic interest in him. The situation gets even more complicated once Zach notices a disturbingly off-balance change in Josh’s behavior.
Blurring genre lines throughout, Super Dark Times marks a confidently audacious and impeccably assembled feature debut for director Kevin Phillips. In its adult depiction of innocence corrupted, Phillips’ midnight-dark film has shades of everything from Stand By Me to Donnie Darko and Stranger Things. Yet Phillips’ masterful command of mood, cinematographer Eli Born’s stunning use of wide-screen photography, a few unsettlingly horror-movie-like dream sequences, and the cast’s excellent performances all combine to elevate Super Dark Times above pastiche and into uncompromisingly bold filmmaking.
Super Dark Times seems like it’s for teenagers, but it’s really for those who remember being teenagers. Being a teenager feels like everything is so important. Sometimes it actually is. Such is the case for the boys who get themselves into a terrible situation. We see it coming, but it makes it no less impactful. Really amazing performances by the young cast that we will surely see again.
Ray Moody (Pat Healy) is a fledgling entrepreneur, trying to get his company off the ground in Los Angeles. His business: abduction, or as Ray describes his company, Kidnap Solutions, LLC, providing alternative therapy that his clients use for curative reasons. The market for such a service is unsurprisingly niche, and Ray is in dire straits. So when he receives a mysterious phone call late one night contracting him for a weekend abduction with a handsome payday at the end, Ray jumps at the chance. The only problem? His target, business consultant Anna St. Blair (Orange Is the New Black’s Taylor Schilling) may not be all that she seems. Take Me, Pat Healy’s feature directorial debut, threads the needle between crime thriller and slapstick farce. Working with writer Mike Makowsky and Executive Producers Jay and Mark Duplass, the film is a wonderfully droll, Hitchcockian black comedy with excellent lead performances that is as twisty as it is funny.
Again, sometimes you know what’s going to happen, but that doesn’t spoil the journey. In Take Me, Pat Healy and Taylor Schilling are in a mental and physical battle. Its twisted sense of humor reminds me of last year’s Tribeca Orchard release, The Overnight, coincidentally also starring Schilling.
So far, Tribeca has not been disappointing!