The Green Sea


Simone is serving up a knuckle sandwich.

(2021) Mystery (Reel 2 Reel) Katharine Isabelle, Hazel Doupe, Dermot Ward, Amy-Joyce Hastings, Jenny Dixon, Elena Tully, Zeb Moore, Ciaron Davies, Michael Parle, Eric Branden, Audrey Hamilton, Darren Killeen, Ava Kealy, Conor Marren, Darren Travers, Ed King, Peter Broderick, Graham Ward, Jonathan Caffrey, John Carey, Peter Lynch. Directed by Randal Plunkett

 

There is a tendency among young filmmakers who have a whole lot of ideas rattling around in their heads to try and get them all down on celluloid. The problem with that is it often makes a film feel less focused; generally, keeping things simple and honing in on the story above all things is the best way to go – but not always. Making films is funny that way – there are no hard and fast rules.

If we want to talk about rules, Simone (Isabelle) doesn’t really follow any. An American author living in a somewhat dilapidated mansion in a small Irish village, she was once a heavy metal musician who went by the name Sim Chaos, although her band never really progressed beyond cult status. So, she decided to write a book and it turned out to be a bestseller. Now she is trying to churn out a follow-up, but it has been six long years since her last one and her agent has lost patience with her.

But Simone has a lot going on, none of it good. She lives alone, after her marriage failed and her daughter…well, stick around and see. But she’s by herself, drinking herself into oblivion night after night, struggling to bang out a few pages on her typewriter, then tossing them into the fireplace in disgust. She keeps to herself and when she ventures into the village to get supplies, she is surly and rude, responding to a pleasantry to have a nice day with a pointed “F*ck off.” The only thing she seems to care about – besides her vodka – is her Jeep, which like her home has seen better days.

While returning home one evening after a particularly frustrating day in which she had a mechanical breakdown and was told it would be less expensive to buy a new car than to repair the old one, she runs into a young girl (Doupe) who is incongruously in the middle of the road in the middle of nowhere. Knowing that she has already had too much to drink and could be thrown in jail if she reports the incident, she instead takes the young girl home and feeds her, giving her a place to stay during the night. The girl, whose name Simone doesn’t want to bother to learn and whom she refers to only as “Kid,” starts cleaning up the place. Still, Simone wants her gone and gets hysterical at the thought of the Kid touching her belongings. However, she recognizes that the Kid could be useful, so she allows her to stay in exchange for cleaning up the place.

Things start to look up for Simone; she even dates a hero-worshipping auto mechanic (D. Ward) from town. But there is someone looking for the Kid, a smiling man (Parle) in a bowler hat and dark glasses whose apparent good humor makes him seem all the more sinister, and the Kid seems to bear a striking resemblance to a character Simone is writing about. Who is the Kid, and what does she want with Simone?

The movie starts out with an almost Gothic, brooding air (in an almost Brontë-like sense) but slowly adds elements of horror, thrillers and the supernatural into the mix. Some of these elements work better than others, and one must give first-time feature filmmaker Plunkett (who also wrote the screenplay) full marks for ingenuity, but at times the movie feels a bit lost in terms of its own identity.

But one thing that works really well is the chemistry between the two leads. One of the things I really liked about it is that the two women are constantly changing their dynamic; one moment, it’s almost sisterly; the next, it feels more like mother-daughter (and the roles of mother and daughter often reverse between Simone and the Kid) and at other moments, they’re like besties. Mix in some beautiful cinematography from Philipp Morozov and you have a good strong foundation here.

But still, Simone has her armor up so thoroughly that even the audience can’t really see through it and it takes Plunkett an hour to address the whys of Simone’s behavior, although astute viewers might be able to figure it out before then. The upshot is that it makes Simone a difficult character to relate to and get behind, although once you understand what drives her it becomes much easier. I’m all for filmmakers who make their audience earn understanding, but some viewers might give up on the movie before they really should, and that would be a shame. The payoff isn’t what you expect it to be, and that might be off-putting too, but I tend to prefer movies that err on the side of imagination rather than movies that stick to established formulas. This isn’t always an easy film to love, but it gets under your skin unexpectedly nonetheless.

REASONS TO SEE: Really strong chemistry between Isabelle and Doupe.
REASONS TO AVOID: The ending is a little bit out there.
FAMILY VALUES: There is profanity, sexual references and violence.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Isabelle may be familiar to American audiences from her work in the film Ginger Snaps.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, Fandango Now, Google Play, Microsoft, Spectrum, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 7/19/2021: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet; Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Secret Window
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10
NEXT:
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain

Stuck


Mena Suvari in Stuck

Mena Suvari suddenly realizes the best part of her career may be behind her.

(THINKfilm) Mena Suvari, Stephen Rea, Russell Hornsby, Rukiya Bernard, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Lionel Mark Smith, Wayne Robson. Directed by Stuart Gordon

We love the catharsis of a good horror movie because it allows us to exorcise our inner demons safely. The reason we have inner demons, however, is because real life can be far more horrific than any movie.

Brandi Boski (Suvari) is a sweet-natured nursing assistant at a care facility for the elderly. She is so compassionate that the sometimes hostile residents, particularly the increasingly demented Mr. Binckley (Robson) want her to tend to them exclusively. That hasn’t escaped the notice of the shrewish facility director Ms. Peterson (Purdy-Gordon), who tells Brandi she is up for a promotion.

On the other end of the spectrum is Thomas Bardo (Rea), a man who is hitting bottom. Laid off from his job as a project manager, he has been unable to find work and is being evicted from his apartment. He is trying to get unemployment benefits at a faceless agency but his application has been lost. Rather than trying to help, the faceless drones force the penniless Bardo to pay for their mistake by filling out the forms all over again and waiting for yet another appointment. With the kind of long-suffering sigh that actor Rea is a master at, he walks off to the local park to find a bench to sleep on, although even that is denied him by a pitiless cop who orders him to hoof it to the mission across town – on incongruously named Hope Street.

Meanwhile, Brandi has been partying with a Tanya (Bernard), a sympathetic co-worker who has been the target of Ms. Peterson’s wrath and her drug-dealing boyfriend Rashid (Hornsby) who has been plying both women with alcohol and X. Even though she’s reeeeeally intoxicated, Brandi elects to drive home – after all, she has to work the next day.

As Bardo trudges towards Hope Street pushing a shopping cart left by a sympathetic homeless man named Sam (Smith) that carries his few belongings, Brandi is on her cell phone calling her boyfriend…you know, the one she just left at the bar. You know the two are going to meet and when they do, it will be with a bang. The distracted, inebriated Brandi hits Bardo head on and he plunges through the windshield.

As you might guess from a white girl wearing cornrows, she panics and after getting spooked trying to drop off her unwanted passenger – who is still alive, miraculously – at the hospital, drives home and parks her bloody car in the garage. When her boyfriend arrives, she chooses not to tell him more than that she’d been in an accident and spends the night having sex with him over a loud rap soundtrack.

As the next day arrives Brandi thinks that by letting Bardo expire naturally, she can then convince her boyfriend to get rid of the body after dark but since Bardo stubbornly refuses to die, she must consider other options, some far more dark than the one she’s already chosen.

This is based on an actual incident, in which a Texas woman named Chante Jawan Mallard struck a homeless man with her car and drove him to her garage and left him to die, although coroners would later say that he could have been saved had she just called for help. Her victim actually died within an hour or two of the impact, while Bardo survives for a great deal longer despite horrific injuries.

Director Gordon is responsible for some excellent cult movies dating back to the 1980s. Stylistically, he is known for a very dark sense of humor – think of the term “black comedy” and multiply it times a thousand here. For example, while Bardo suffers in agony in the garage, a local dog finds its way in and decides to chow down on a bone – one of Bardo’s, sticking out from his leg. It’s the kind of thing you laugh at then wince at then wonder how sick you are to have found it funny.

Suvari, who has come a long way from the American Pie movies, does a reasonable job in Stuck. She plays a character that has a veneer of compassion but it deserts her when her comfort is threatened. She’s not evil per se, but self-centered to the point of psychosis. I thought the movie would have worked a little bit better if Brandi had been a little more likable, but perhaps it might not have been possible to paint the character that way without making her actions completely unbelievable so I guess it will have to do. As it stands other than Bardo and Sam, nearly everyone in the movie is completely self-absorbed.

Rea, so good in movies like The Crying Game and V for Vendetta has the hangdog look that befits the character. Given the fact that he spends most of the movie impaled on the windscreen with little to do but moan and rage at the heavens, he makes this movie work. While he isn’t like a Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees, he does take a licking and keep on ticking leading to a conclusion that is extraordinarily bloody but nonetheless satisfying.

This is not a laugh out loud funny joke-fest but it could be classified as a comedy. It doesn’t keep you on the edge of your seat but it could be counted as a thriller. There are no major scares but it certainly might be found in the horror section of your home video emporium. The fact is, it fulfills the criteria for each genre quite nicely and manages to be quite a good little movie that escaped under the radar. It is certainly worth a rental.

WHY RENT THIS: Gordon is a splendid director who knows a thing or two about ratcheting up the tension level. A not so thinly veiled commentary on the state of the American people – self-absorbed to the point of psychosis.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Suvari’s character is so loathsome that it is difficult for the audience to get behind her, which might have elevated the film a bit had we been able to.

FAMILY VALUES: There is a good deal of violence, some fairly horrific, much nudity and sex and some drug usage. As you can see, not terribly appropriate for the kiddies.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Director Gordon appears in a cameo as a resident carrying a bag of groceries who gets yelled at by Rashid’s girlfriend.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: On the Blu-Ray edition, there’s a feature that touches somewhat in-depth on the incident that inspired the movie. Note that on the DVD edition, there are no extras whatsoever, not even a commentary track.

FINAL RATING: 7/10

TOMORROW: Final Day of Six Days of Darkness