I was originally going to write more detailed reviews of each of the SIFF movies I saw, but as the festival has been over for almost two weeks, I’ll just write brief thoughts on each.
Winter’s Bone - an atmospheric blend of mystery and regional portrait, this story of Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) and her quest in the Missourri Ozarks to find her absent, meth-cooking father is a solid movie bouyed by Lawrence’s performance. John Hawkes is also great as Teardrop, Ree’s menacing uncle, but many of the other performances, trying for minimal affect, feel flat and wooden instead. Great pacing and storyline, interesting depiction of gender roles amongst the backwoods inhabitants. B
Dear Lemon Lima - this locally filmed production about a group of high school misfits banding together, headed by Vanessa (Savanah Wiltfong), is overwhelmingly cute and twee, but it hit me in the right mood, and so came off as more adorable than cloying. A sudden development late in the film comes off as rushed and gratuitous, rather than emotionally resonant as intended (seriously, if you see this movie, you will know exactly what scene I am talking about), and some of the lovable misfit stuff is just too much, but there are some great elements - Vanessa’s obsession with her former boyfriend, the smarmy rich boy Phillip, leads to some funny scenes, as does people’s perception of her ties to her Yup’ik Indian heritage. Also, I have a soft spot for movies that treat teenage girls like they are actual people, which is the heart of this well-meaning if imperfect comedy. B-
I Killed My Mother is pretty astounding. It captures the relationship between a teenage boy (Hubert, played by writer-director Xavier Dolan) and his single mother (Anne Dorval) perfectly, with Hubert careening between affection and anger on a dime, and Dolan avoiding giving the audience a likely surrogate. Both Hubert and his mother do completely selfish and fucked up things, but both also act out of love and devotion at times. Dorval gives a wonderfully funny and sad performance, and the script avoids easy solutions to a complex relationship. A-
Leaves of Grass - I tried to love this movie, and I tried to love Edward Norton in it, but I ended up only loving parts. Leaves of Grass is the story of twin brothers, both played by Norton, who grew up together as rednecks in Oklahoma. One (Bill) is now a classics professor who has worked hard to hide his roots, the other (Brady) is a pot grower who fakes his own death to get Bill to visit. Norton is good as Bill, but his portrayal of Brady suffers, as does the movie, from some condescending mockery and backwoods platitutes. Leaves of Grass can’t seem to decide if the Oklahoma residents are braindead rubes or good country people who will save your soul, and either option is reductionist and patronizing. Additionally, the story takes a few strange turns that feel sudden and unsupported. C+