Audrie & Daisy


Daisy Coleman contemplates what happened to her.

Daisy Coleman contemplates what happened to her.

(2016) Documentary (Netflix) Daisy Coleman, Amanda Le, Delaney Henderson, Darren White, Paige Parkhurst, Charlie Coleman, Melinda Coleman, Jim Fall, Audrie Pott. Directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk

 

There is no doubt that women have a lot to be upset about when it comes to the way they are treated compared to men, especially in matters of sex and rape. Many people were outraged at the way Stanford swimming champion Brock Turner was given a pass after brutally raping a nearly unconscious woman after a party. It turns out that’s just typical.

Daisy Coleman and Audrie Pott have very similar stories to tell. Both were young girls in high school; Daisy a 14-year-old freshman in Maryville, Missouri and Audrie a 15-year-old sophomore in Saratoga, California. Both girls went to a party and had too much to drink. Both were with friends that they trusted. In Audrie’s case, she was stripped and had all sorts of things written on her body with indelible markers, things of a sexual nature. Pictures were taken and video also taken of her being violated by two of her so-called friends. The next day her schoolmates had seen the evidence of what happened and rather than feel sympathy towards her they isolated her and shamed her, calling her a slut and that she had “asked for it.”

For high school students, their world is both large and small; large as the entire Internet, small as the crowd they hang out with at school. Reputation is everything and when that reputation is sullied the effects can be devastating. You can try to explain to someone victimized in that fashion that it is something that will not stay with them forever, that they will eventually move on to other places who won’t know what happened to them but teenage life is very much in the here and now. Audrie felt that her life was over and that she would be labeled a slut forever. She was not the kind of girl who wore provocative clothes or came on to guys; she was in fact fairly conservative from a sexual standpoint. All of that was beside the point however and she knew it; the perception of her had changed in her immediate circle and it broke her. She hung herself eight days after the events of her assault.

Daisy, who at 14 was a cheerleader and a dancer,  and her friend Paige were already inebriated at home when a friend of her brother Charlie’s texted her and asked if she and Paige wanted to hang out with them and chill. Charlie was already in bed, having celebrated a wrestling tournament win. Daisy agreed to go and almost immediately upon their arrival, the two girls were separated and then raped by the boys who were there. They were then returned home and left in the snow where Daisy’s mother found them.

Daisy was barely conscious and it was only when her mom put her in a warm tub that she realized that there were bruises near her genitalia. She brought her daughter to the ER where a rape kit confirmed she had been sexually assaulted. Both Charlie and Daisy were ostracized and rendered pariahs; the three boys at the party who had assaulted Daisy and Paige were football heroes. The town was divided, but most of the sympathy went not to the girls who had been raped but to the boys who had raped them. The girls were accused of making up the incident, that the sex was consensual which is absolutely outrageous; first of all there was physical evidence of rape. Secondly, they were both well over the legal limit that constitutes inebriation. There was no way they could have given consent to anything.

The physical assaults may have ended that night but the assaults continued on social media, especially towards Daisy who wanted to see justice done to those who had violated her. The town sheriff to the astonishment of most victim advocacy groups dropped all charges, explaining how he didn’t want to ruin the lives of the boys involved, conveniently neglecting that the girls who they had assaulted already had their lives negatively impacted for the rest of their lives. Personally I think any sheriff who doesn’t understand the consequences of rape to the victim should be recalled.

See, my blood is boiling again; as a critic, I should be talking about the documentary, how it gets its point across and the quality of the filmmaking and I promise I’ll get to that. However, I think that the movie is a devastating illustration of the attitudes towards rape that our prevalent in our society; how justice for rape victims is a rare thing, how social media is used to further punish those who undergo traumatic events and how those who stand up against their attackers will be targeted for hate; in the case of the Coleman family, their house was burned to the ground by those who supported the boys who hurt their daughter.

There are some flaws with the film; as important as both of the stories of Audrie and Daisy are, the filmmakers don’t link them well. They alternate the telling of them in an almost arbitrary fashion and as a result the narrative doesn’t flow as well as it could which robs the stories of their impact to a small extent.

Still, I believe that every high school in the country should show this movie to their student body every year without exception. It stands as a chilling reminder to young girls that even friends can turn on them and rape them, and that if they choose to drink they need to make sure that they are with someone who will stay sober and watch over them. Women shouldn’t have to take precautions like that but until attitudes change, it’s the prudent thing to do.

Men should also learn how devastating sexual assault is to the one assaulted; they should learn to respect women and appreciate them rather than treat them as objects who are there for their pleasure. There is an important message here that needs to be seen. In fact, it isn’t only high school students who should be watching Audrie & Daisy; their parents should as well. The leaders of communities where there are high schools. Law enforcement members in those communities. Basically, everyone.

REASONS TO GO: The film examines rape culture with clear eyes. The stories of Audrie and Daisy are heartbreaking and all too common. The rift between how young boys and girls are treated is starkly illustrated.
REASONS TO STAY: The stories of Audrie and Daisy are told alternately without any sort of narrative flow, robbing them of their effectiveness somewhat.
FAMILY VALUES: Very adult issues, vivid descriptions of sexual assaults, some sexuality and language.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The directors are a husband-wife team whose previous film, The Island President, tackled climate change.
BEYOND THE THEATER: Netflix
CRITICAL MASS: As of 11/3/16: Rotten Tomatoes: 85% positive reviews. Metacritic: 73/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Bully
FINAL RATING: 8.5/10
NEXT: UFO – It is Here

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Snow Angels


Kate Beckinsale ignores the third eye growing out of Sam Rockwell's forehead.

Kate Beckinsale ignores the third eye growing out of Sam Rockwell's forehead.

(Warner Independent) Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell, Michael Angarano, Olivia Thirlby, Griffin Dunne, Jeannetta Arnette, Nicky Katt, Amy Sedaris. Directed by David Gordon Green

Love can be a double edged sword. When love is good, there is nothing better in the world. You feel like you can take on any challenge, accomplish any goal. When love goes bad however, it can turn on you savagely and eviscerate your very soul.

In a small Pennsylvania town, snow is a blanket that hides the unpleasant things that simmer just below the surface. Annie (Beckinsale) is trying to raise her toddler daughter by herself, having left her husband Glenn (Rockwell) after too many drunken nights. He has found Christianity and clings to it like a drowning man to a life preserver, seeing it as a way out – not so much of his drinking but a route back to his family.

Arthur (Angarano) works at the same Chinese restaurant as Annie, who used to be his babysitter and who he still has a crush on. He is a teenager busy with the things of high school; hanging out with his friends, playing in the marching band, preparing to college. His mother (Arnette) and father (Dunne) are in the process of splitting up. He turns to Lila (Thirlby), a friend who is something of an outsider for solace; their relationship deepens into something more.

Annie is a mess. She’s having an affair with the husband (Katt) of her best friend (Sedaris) and battles her mother, who is anxious for her to reconcile with her husband. Glenn, in the meantime, is battling his demons and losing the fight. It doesn’t take a genius in the human condition to figure out that a tragedy is fast approaching and the leads are far too busy staring at the rear-view and side mirrors to see what’s in front of them.

Green is one of the most acclaimed directors on the indie scene and this is the first of his four directorial efforts that he has based on an outside source (a Stuart O’Nan novel). In lesser hands, this could have been a standard small town Midwinter tragedy, one of many out there. Green has a great ear for dialogue, and every character manages to sound authentic. He also has a great sense of his characters. He doesn’t allow them to descend to cliches, but he doesn’t allow them to be anything less than sympathetic. He also casts them near-perfectly.

Beckinsale, mostly known for her role as a vampire in the Underworld series, shines here. She plays a woman who has had a life filled with bad choices and who has endured the curse of being a beautiful woman in a small town. Small towns tend to magnify things, simply because there is so little competition for conversation. She’s struggling to break free of the corner she’s painted herself into, but the angels of her lesser nature tend to overwhelm the angels of her better nature. I had not known Beckinsale for her acting ability so much as for looking awesome in a vinyl catsuit, but I’ve revised my opinion of her.

Rockwell has added another in a long line of truly terrific performances. He is rapidly evolving into one of those actors who can carry a movie by himself, and while he didn’t get much Oscar buzz for this performance (which is a crime in and of itself), he seems destined to win one or more of the coveted trophies at some point. He may not necessarily be the dashing leading man, but he certainly does everyman as well as anybody.

The romance between Angarano and Thirlby is at the center of the movie and provides a sweet counterpoint to the collapsing relationships that belong to the adults of the movie. It is ironic that the best relationship in the movie belongs to the youngest people in it, which sticks a bit in my craw. So often the movies tend to portray teenage relationships as superior to adult ones, but the fact is that teenagers are at least as prone to treating each other like dirt as adults are. Still, Angarano and Thirlby handle their roles skillfully, and some of the best moments in the film belong to them.

The sense of impending tragedy is certainly palpable, but it isn’t central to the experience of the film. The denouement, foreshadowed in the film’s opening moments, is not the point of the journey, merely a terrible sight on it. The journey is the one taken by the characters, trying desperately to interact with the others in their lives and failing miserably. We all have relationships like that, ruined by our own inability to articulate how we feel and what we want – sometimes because we ourselves don’t know how we feel or what we want.

The snow can hide all matter of sins, but blood will inevitably show up starkly against the serene whiteness of a winter landscape. My wife is fond of saying “your sins will find you out” and so they will. This is not so much a movie about sin, but about the aftermath of sin and the flotsam it generates. It’s a powerful look at the underbelly of what are generally good people, and how their moments of weakness resonate through the lives that surround them.

WHY RENT THIS: Fine performances by Rockwell, Beckinsale, Angarano and Thirlby are worth watching. Green is one of the best dialogue writers in independent films today. The characters are flawed but relatable.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The characterization of Glenn as a born-again Christian may offend those who are Christians or struggling with alcoholism.

FAMILY VALUES: Some drug use, sexuality, foul language and violence. Suitable for mature teens.

TRIVIAL PURSUITS: This movie was originally written by Green for another director; when that director moved on to another property, the production company asked Green to direct it.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

FINAL RATING: 8/10

TOMORROW: Heima