I Blame Society **1/2
Graciela Borges in The Weasels' Tale
It’s a (kinda literally) killer idea co-writer/director/star Gillian Wallace Horvat has for a satire of being a woman trying to make a career as a filmmaker, but unfortunately one that’s much more effective in theory than in her execution. Playing a fictionalized version of herself in faux verité footage, Horvat begins a project inspired by a friend’s offhand remark that Horvat would make a great murderer—an idea that she eventually decides to put to the test. It takes a long time to get there, though, as Horvat sets up her frustrated attempts at a more conventional artistic career, including dealing with producers paying lip service to their interest in stories full of diversity buzzwords and a boyfriend working on an “elevated sci-fi David Lynch graphic novel.” But while she nails a few individual scenes skewering L.A. industry culture, and offers a unique onscreen comedic presence, it’s just not funny enough often enough. Nor is it particularly interesting at making Horvat’s transformation into serial killer at all convincing, despite a clever poke at rom-com “makeover sequences.” What’s left is a dark comedy that has fun with gratuitous sex and violence without harnessing the self-loathing that this is what it took for the filmmaker to get something made. Available Jan. 15 via SLFSatHome.org.
One Night in Miami … ***
See feature review
. Available Jan. 8 in theaters; Jan. 15 via Amazon Prime.
The Reason I Jump ***
The groundbreaking book of the same name by then-13-year-old Naoki Higashida—explaining the experience as a mostly non-verbal person with autism, from his own point of view—becomes the jumping-off point for Jerry Rothwell’s documentary portrait of families around the world coping with the unique challenges of having an offspring with autism. Rothwell does attempt to use his visual style and sound design in an attempt to put us inside the heads of people with autism and how they navigate sensory stimuli in such a different way, as a complement to actor Jordan O’Donegan’s narration of translated passages from Higashida’s book. Yet perhaps inevitably, the film’s narrative focus becomes that of the parents and caregivers, addressing their guilt and frustration over the ways they haven’t been able to give their children what they need. It is a bit disappointing that a book so uniquely built around the autistic world-view can’t duplicate that perspective; it’s still wrenching to see parents in Sierra Leone deal with cultural stigmas branding their kids as possessed by evil spirits, or a mother’s anguished realization that “I’ve tried to stop her from being herself.” Available Jan. 8 via SLFSatHome.org and ParkCityFilm.org.
The Weasels’ Tale ***1/2
Juan José Campanella (the Oscar-winning The Secret in Their Eyes
) remakes a 1976 Argentinian film with a wonderfully acidic bite. It’s the story of a faded movie star diva, Mara Ordaz (Graciela Borges), living in a remote manor with her wheelchair-bound ex-actor husband Pedro (Luis Brandoni), and her longtime directing and screenwriting collaborators Norberto (Oscar Martínez) and Martín (Marcos Mundstock). Into their lives come Bárbara (Clara Lago) and Francisco (Nicolás Francella), who initially appear to be doting fans but actually have more self-serving plans in mind. Campanella does a terrific job of establishing the dynamic between the four co-habitants, and gradually builds the back-story of what keeps them together. But it’s best as a sly dark comedy evoking the Ealing classics, featuring some hilariously tart dialogue, rich performances and terrific scenes of the characters circling one another to understand what they really want, and how much of a threat they might be. Even the self-aware, almost-fourth-wall-breaking references to cinematic tropes feel completely natural, rather than like affectations. Though the grand finale gets a little bit too grand in its twisty-turny plotting, there’s a hell of a lot of fun along the way. Available Jan. 8 via ParkCityFilm.org.