I’ll admit, the first shot of Glass didn’t fill me with much confidence. A masculine bodied person, wearing a dress, stalks into a room to intimidate a new batch of abducted young girls. It spoke to everything that I hated about Split: its stigmatisation of non-normative bodies, the casual nature of its depictions of abuse. Our first glimpse into the lives of our self-identifying heroes and villains disappointingly confirms that not much has changed.
So, in the movie Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 there’s a scene where the hypoglycemic hero has a drop in his blood sugar level and collapses on the ground. Kevin James, giving an unconvincing physical performance, must flail around the lobby of the Vegas hotel where the film takes place until a child’s melting ice cream drips into his open mouth. You can find this scene on youtube.
In basically the first scene of A Simple Favour Anna Kendrick’s character explains that the sequence of events leading up to her best friend’s disappearance happened on their kids’ school’s World Food Day. We then cut to a flashback, the banner in the classroom reads Ethnic Food Day. And so it becomes clear that, even when tasked with directing what on the outset appears to be a serious and sexy mystery thriller, his primary tendency is always going to lean towards comedy.
Bart Layton, writer and director of American Animals released his first feature in 2012 to critical acclaim. The Imposter was a true crime documentary that no doubt would have been huge if it came out a couple of years later, after the true crime documentary craze exploded. The film accounts through interview and reconstruction the tale of a young man who conned a family into believing that he was their long missing son. It’s a compelling story, made more so by the fact that the main interviewee taking us through events is the fraudster himself.
Searching has got me thinking about how we interface with contemporary technology in the aesthetic properties of storytelling. Earlier this year we saw Soderbergh’s Unsane which used the burnt out visual quality of mobile phone footage to great effect in building up its unsettling and uncanny sense of place. This summer came Stephen Susco’s horror sequel Unfriended: Dark Web which built on the first-person, laptop-screen chills of the original by turning its eye upon how the monitor complicates the relationship between audience and participant.
For as rough and abrasive as Unsane appears in front of you it feels like such a breath of fresh air. I mean, I came out of it shook. It’s grimy and exploitative, knockout trash which feels like they’ve been mandated to throw in a new twist every ten or so pages. Y’all never got to wait long before it decides to throw something lurid up on the screen, but it’s carried off like a real miser is holding onto the purse strings.
I don’t think there was ever a time when calling your lead character Dominika would have been subtle, but in a post Fifty Shades world it’s more about setting expectations. Those expectations are ones which the film constantly delights in frustrating. Dominika goes through the entire film without properly domming anybody, instead after receiving extensive training as a sexpionage agent (real term btw) she immediately goes and falls in love with the first man she’s sent to seduce.