SUNDANCE REVIEWS: EMERGENCY/FRESH

EMERGENCY

Director: Carey Williams

Written by: KD Davila

Starring: RJ Cyler, Sabrina Carpenter, Donald Elise Watkins and Sebastian Chacon

Carey Williams returns to Sundance after last year’s R#J and this time he has developed a feature length version of his 2018 short EMERGENCY. What starts off as your usual college buddy film quickly develops into a night with life threatening stakes that speaks volumes of being a Black and Latino in today’s America. Williams’ riff on the Superbad formula rises above with an excellent balance of dark humor, extremely likeable characters all mixed together by an ongoing melancholy feel. It is the type of college film that knows how to hit all the marks but is never afraid to go for the big cry.

Kunle (breakout star Donald Elise Watkins) knows where his determination lies, it’s in the biology lab of his college where he, unlike his fellow white peers, can’t afford a distraction. This does not mean that he isn’t your typical college guy who even with some begrudging can’t resist a night out with his vape smoking loud-mouth best friend Sean (RJ Cyler). The plan is simple but can make them legends, the two have scored access to every major house party and if they attend each one within the night they can earn a spot on the student created wall of fame full of first other Black students who came before. For Sean failure isn’t an option, they must complete their mission as it will gain them the respect they deserve. A respect they do not get amongst their white peers or especially their white professor who feels since she’s of academic scholar and it was on the syllabus can throw the N word around with full protection (“I added a trigger warning” she proudly states). Kunle who has bigger academic aspirations goes along for the night but not without reservations. Anyone who has seen a “it happens in one night” movie knows nothing will go according to plan, so when the two arrive home to find an unknown white girl passed out in their house, it becomes more than clear that decisions need to be made; and fast.It’s a premise that white directors or frat movies with full white casts would turn into a comical bit. For two Black college students and their Latino roommate Carlos (A scene stealing Sebastian Chacon) it’s a freaking life threatening nightmare. This is where Williams’ directing and Davila’s script soars above the rest. The filmmakers, cast (and hopefully) most of the audience realizes why calling the cops isn’t such an easy option. It is that important notion which carries the rest of the night. Mistakes will be made, and the friendships will be tested but Williams wants to make it clear that this situation was not only thrown onto them, but even when Kule argues that maybe the police would have been a better option it’s still apparent to him why he does not go through with the call. By the time crazier events unfold and white characters are introduced (Sabrina Carpenter doing the most with a somewhat underdeveloped character) the film never loses sight on being outright entertaining. Yes, there are sprinkles of the other films that came before in the genre, but none find themselves at a climatic point that displays such Black male vulnerability. It is this moment that should be the focus for other films that want to use this as the new blueprint. For every wild moment or dick joke there needs to be a reminder that these are coming of age films and the fear of growing apart from your best friend is bigger than a night out.

A-

Emergency will be released in theaters May 20 and Prime Video May 27

FRESH

Written and directed by: Mimi Cave

Starring: Sebastian Stan, Daisy Edgar-Jones, Jojo T. Gibbs

Dating sucks. Dating apps suck even more. So, when we eventually try to put ourselves out there the bar is so low that one of the only things we ask for our match to not be is a psycho. Unfortunately we don’t always get what we want, but thankfully we have director Mimi Cave who takes a bloody and delicious bite out of the modern dating world. This is the type of film that benefits greatly from being in the “Midnight Selection.” To say a lot would just be cruel, but one thing that must be said is that this will be the gloriously nasty film that finally allowed Sebastian Stan to be free of those Winter Soldier shackles. For that reason alone, it is a real winner.

Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is in the same boat as everyone else. She’s single and hates dating. She spends most of her boring day swiping left, and even when she finally does get a match the date finds a way to criticize her appearance multiple times, make her split the price on the meal (cash only), and go in for an aggressive kiss all in the span of an hour. If this is the only option that the apps provide than there must be no hope. Enter Steve (Sebastian Stan) a well-dressed, well-spoken and clearly handsome man who doesn’t know how to flirt in the produce aisle (where they have their meet cute). Even when we first meet Steve he comes off as boring, charming yes, but boring. But hey he’s cute enough for Noa to accept the date, “ I didn’t even know people still meet in person” she says to her apprehensive friend Mollie (Jonica T. Gibbs). What follows next is far from surprising, they have sex, they start a full relationship, they perform corny dance routines in Noa’s apartment. It’s all very Hallmark Original Movie. Then…things change.

Again to say more would spoil some outrageous fun, but this film is destined to become a cult classic and definitely the first sign that Sebastian Stan is about to have a hell of a 2022. Yes, the Romanian born actor never got a big chance to let his freak flag fly before being scooped up by Marvel to play the stoic best friend to Captain America. There was 2017’s I, Tonya but that quickly became an underrated performance only discussed on Film Twitter and fan accounts (Stan accounts if you will). Here he and Edgar-Jones deliver some of the best chemistry to come out this year and makes this critic want to seem them reunite for almost every other film genre. Cave uses Stan to to display not only the worst of dating possibilities, but also a reminder that evil men will do everything in their power to make a woman feel like she is at fault and that she should be begging for the man’s forgiveness. It is a crucial element that stretches out for the entire 115 minute runtime, and while that runtime could have been chopped down there are so many vibrant and shocking moments that you find yourself fully stuffed by the end but more than satisfied. If Fresh becomes a breakout hit when it reaches Hulu on March 4, it will be the type of film that you jump at the chance to talk about with a friend or just maybe that lucky (or unlucky) person you swiped right on.

B

Fresh will be released on Hulu March 4

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