In Review: Kajillionaire

Miranda July’s new film Kajillionaire, her first in nearly a decade, is another melancholy, silver lining-punctuated comic fable on the pains of being alive. But this effort finds July in her most accessible mode yet, telling a universal story about how we transcend the ways our parents screw us up that also finds the auteur at her most optimistic. Here we follow Old Dolio (a droll and committed Evan Rachel Wood), a young woman who lives with her small-time con artist parents (Debra Winger and Richard Jenkins) that have been as clipped in their affections as they are with their scamming. Their life is led by hardline pragmatism and small-time grifting to get by – mail theft, giveaways, evading the landlord of their office space home that seeps pink foam from the walls. While their is little space for compassion in this family’s life, there is still plenty of room for Julyisms.

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In Review: The Nest

Nearly a decade after emerging with the unsettling psychodrama Martha Marcy May Marlene, Sean Durkin has finally arrived with a follow-up to that horror-adjacent debut. That film launched the career of Elizabeth Olsen as its fractured titular character, and his latest, The Nest, should rightly send its underrated lead actress Carrie Coon into the stratosphere. But while this film also provides its female headliner with a rich role of stifled expression, here Durkin hones the forebodingly tense traumas of his first film into something less overtly menacing, yet still as keenly psychologically observed. Like a haunted house movie without the ghosts, The Nest thrills with a pervasive sense of unease and no catharsis, making for a special breed of melodrama that eschews the emotional demands of the genre.

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In Review: Tesla

All due credit to Michael Almereyda for approaching the biopic with an aim to color largely outside of the lines. His latest, the Ethan Hawke-led Tesla, employs multiple disparate and attention grabbing stylistic oddities to make for what it hopes is a different kind of historical study of a storied man. Indeed, the film’s flirting with neon lighting and anachronisms within the staid genre are certainly valid ways to highlight how Nikola Tesla stood apart from his contemporaries. But unlike the famous inventor that the film depicts as an outsider among American scientists, Tesla largely disappoints because it is far more conventional than it leads you to believe.


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In Review: Words on Bathroom Walls

Teen melodramas, while somewhat unfairly treated as disposal in the marketplace, have recently found renewed value in telling important stories previously excluded from their genre’s narrative. While The Fault in Our Stars received perhaps the widest popularity in its love story centered on terminally ill teens, the genre was at its finest with The Hate U Give‘s youth-centered examination of racism and police brutality. Now following in The Perks of Being a Wallflower‘s shoes, another story of young love, self-acceptance, and mental illness is offered in Words on Bathroom Walls. It’s not one that stands alongside any of those better films.


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In Review: She Dies Tomorrow

In Amy Seimetz’s tranfixing She Dies Tomorrow, anxiety and self-revelation are catching. With a foreboding tone that dips fingers into (and unsteadies) several genre waters, the film explores personal demons with an eye towards existentialist horror, the most remote science fiction, and sometimes gaspingly bleak humor. Seimetz takes the virus film, or ghost film, and places the horror in the mind of her characters, passing on their possibily contagious or hereditary axieties as they come in contact with one another throughout various unfeeling Californian fortresses of isolation. Each of her several locations are a figurative island, but more importantly, so are her characters.


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