In Review: The Art of Self-Defense

Writer-director Riley Stearns reaches for arch misanthropy with his sophomore feature The Art of Self-Defense, a comedy of modern masculinity stuck in the stone ages. Gifted with a smartly assembled cast playing to their typical types but with some freshness, the film is assembled with competing doses of dark humor and familiarity. But despite some of its early laughs, the film’s influences are all too apparent to establish a voice all its own. As the film strays into thriller territory, the themes grow stale and its satire somewhat compromised.

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In Review: Disobedience

The saying “you can never go home again” means something different for queer folks. At best, our formative communities and family units still carry the feeling of before and after we became someone else. For those of harsher reality, a return brings it’s own consequences, a reckoning of lingering past, anxious present, and uncertain future. If this person is permitted to return at all.

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In Disobedience, the latter is closer to the truth for Ronit, a photographer and former member of an enclosed conservative Jewish community, played with tense reserve by Rachel Weisz. Her return is prompted by the funeral of her strict father to which she was estranged, but the real coming home is to her former trio unit with the doting Dovid (Alessandro Nivola) and Esti (Rachel McAdams). Dovid has risen in the ranks of the Orthodoxy as a rabbi and Esti is now his wife, creating odd maneuverability around what their group has been and how it has changed.

But the meaningful glances between Ronit and Esti tell us all we need to know about this repressed shared past. And yet the palpability of the unspoken brews questions upon questions for us until they can now more stifle themselves behind their darting eyes and hesitant sentences.

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