SCRAPPER (CHARLOTTE REGAN)
A film that chooses to ignore the grand gesture, SCRAPPER is a little film that basks in the genuine and natural emotions of a young child. A child named Georgie (Lola Campbell) who does not know how to fully grieve. Georgie’s mother (Olivia Brady) has died leaving Georgie to live alone in her London flat, while avoiding school, social workers and stealing bikes to hope to get her next meal. Lola Campbell as Georgie is one of the best young talents in quite some time. She has a talent beyond her years and can deliver lines that most adult performers would stumble on. Georgie herself seems to have it all figured out though. Her best mate Ali (Alin Uzun) aids her in her crimes, but is kept out of Georgie’s internal world. As well as her mother’s old room where a top secret project of Georgie’s is being put together. All this however is disrupted when her father Jason (Harris Dickinson) arrives and wants to be back in her life. Jason who looks like Slim Shady and comes off in more insecure knows he has missed the important years, but isn’t going to let that stop him from trying to make up for it. Director Charlotte Regan quick film is one that is both tender joyful in its execution but tender in knowing never to create something overtly Hollywood for Jason and Georgie. Many scenes involve just the two of them hanging out playing small games seeing if they are a good fit for father and daughter. Campbell and Dickinson have wonderful chemistry and make those moments feel improvised (they are not). The film never settles for a quick wrap up even if it may appear so, no the ending is only the beginning of Georgie and Jason’s journey. Here is a film that doesn’t want to surprise you with overwhelming feelings, but instead much like Georgie and Jason allow yourself to meet in the middle and go on together.
SCRAPPER PREMIERED AT THE SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL WHERE IT WON THE WORLD CINEMA GRAND JURY PRIZE DRAMATIC. IT IS CURRENTLY SEEKING U.S. DISTRIBUTION
FAIR PLAY (CHLOE DOMONT)
Gender dynamics in the work place has been a discussion for many years, however it has usually been dominated by voices who know very little on the matter or are too busy making the rules. FAIR PLAY is another look at men and women in the workplace this time situated in the relationship from hell. Emily and Luke (Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich respectively) have just gotten engaged. In fact Luke accidently drops the ring on the floor during a drunken hookup where Luke finds himself covered in Emily’s blood since it is her time of the month (she didn’t know until Luke stood up). The two of them laugh it off and continue their lovemaking back at home in their swanky New York apartment. There days are followed by going to work in separate directions taking separate subways, only to appear at the same stock broker firm where their relationship (and especially engagement) must remain a secret. If anyone knows anything about the world of wall street (or claims to be an expert after watching Industry or The Wolf of Wall Street) than they can easily tell you it is a man’s world in the worst ways. Emily is smart she knows this in fact for all her support of Luke, especially when a high end position becomes available, she still plays it off like it should and will be Luke getting promoted after all she is just there for him. Things take quite the turn though when, you guessed it, Emily gets the promotion instead and Luke’s support and love for Emily suddenly takes a nosedive. Chloe Domont has an exciting premise of power dynamic and even sets it up for some hilarious commentary on men who claim to be in a woman’s corner. However FAIR PLAY for all its buildup is quite the letdown that takes itself far too seriously. It is not that this isn’t an important and much needed topic of discussion, but rather that every scene feels like a means to an end. An end (no spoilers) by the way that feels straight out of a thriller book that one reads to keep them company during a flight. Thankfully the movie is elevated by the performances of Dynevor and Ehrenreich. The dialogue can stick out like a sore thumb or even as nauseating as your weekly Riverdale episode, but both these actors have a great knack for making you at least intrigued to see where they find themselves. Dynevor may be playing like she is in several different films here, but frankly she nails each one. One even begins to ask where is her “Gone Girl” movie. Ehrenreich on the other hand is a welcome delight and his performance only makes you angrier that Disney fucked him over with their blame of “Solo” on him. He has a natural ability to play the slimeball that you see right from the start even if he does his best to hide it, making it all the more exciting when he gets to let loose in the film’s best moment. FAIR PLAY is very much a film that knows what it wants to say, but the care of the characters and their journey feels so far gone that you are left feeling bored of its intentions and instead belittled.
FAIR PLAY PREMIERED AT THE SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL AND WILL BE RELEASED LATER THIS YEAR ON NETFLIX
SHORTCOMINGS (RANDALL PARK)
Randall Park might want us to know that he can be a real prick. The comedian actor has turned his feature film debut into a look in the mirror where both we are the hero and honestly the enemy. Adapted from the graphic novel of the same name by Adrian Tomes, SHORTCOMINGS is a very funny look at one man’s inability to find the right woman or success and look everyone but his ego. A criterion collector that goffs at other peoples interest in art, and one that chooses to be blinded and open to the possibility that someone might like something different just because. Ben (Justin H. Min) an Asian American doesn’t think his culture needs a movie that glamorizes and stereotypes the rich and happy go lucky Asian. He balks this is as he and his girlfriend Miko (Ally Maki) walk out of a screening of a soon to be major hit film that premiered at an Asian American film festival in their local Bay Area. Miko on the other hands states that sometimes people just want to enjoy things. Ben refuses to see it that way, to him the whole world is one big judgement. A judgement on his race, who he dates, the way he dresses and so forth. For all the annoying attributes of Ben, he isn’t terribly wrong. There is clearly a history of unfortunate mistreatment that has led to some of his ideas, and while the execution is all off he continues to use it as a defense. This only worsens when Miko decides to take an internship in New York City leaving Ben to have one less person to complain to. Fortunately for him his best friend Alice (a hysterical Sherry Cola) is there for him, but much like the other women in his life refuses to stand by as he bickers about everything in sight. In a post Q&A Min says that he is Ben before therapy, and while the comment gets a wide laugh from the audience the truth in the matter is that Ben really can be many of us. Our inability to listen and accept new ideas when our own methods have been ingrained in us with years of practice. It may not hit all at one like it does with Ben, but there can be many times in our lives when our ego will be our greatest undoing. The film gets Ben through a lot during its short (honestly too short) runtime including trying to date his coworker, (a scene stealing Tavi Gevinson) to trying to date a hipster named Sasha who is barely over her ex (Debby Ryan) all before he realizes New York is where he should be and winning Miko is all that matters. It leads to some very funny moments that will still have you angry though that Ben keeps looking anywhere but where his main problem is. SHORTCOMINGS may find its way to get under people’s skin, but one thing Randall Park does best is create a film that is a natural space for Asian American actors that never needs to be held back by Hollywood’s insulting standards. Here is a movie where we can root or be in disgust of the characters plainly for their actions and nothing more. A film that feels like you’re hanging with your friends, the ones you love and the ones you love to hate.
SHORTCOMINGS PREMIERED AT THE SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL. IT IS CURRENLTY SEEKING DISTRIBUTION
JAMOJAYA (JUSTIN CHON)
Justin Chon loves to move towards the drama. A young filmmaker who is continuously learning remains to be an exciting voice in independent cinema even when his works struggle to find footing. There is still a satisfaction in knowing there is a filmmaker out there willing to see his errors and try to move forward with each film. His latest may be his best yet, JAMOJAYA is a lesson in forgiveness as well as a deep dive into the complex relationships of fathers and sons. It may appear to be surface leveled in some fashion, but Chon is actually able to channel the works of Terrance Malick (specifically his underrated “Knight of Cups”) as well as Chon’s affinity for hip hop music. There is great pain felt throughout, but where Chon finds some answer he is still willing to ask himself and his audience to look at bigger ideas that may be hard to ever come to terms fully with.
James (rapper Rich Brian) needs to get out from his father’s shadow. While his father (a heartbreaking Yayu A.W. Unru) may not be a musical artists himself, he has made it his duty to be his son’s manager in hopes of being closer to his son after an unspoken family tragedy. Even as the film begins and we start with James being interviewed about parting ways with his father/manager there is a sense of needing to break away while also being very hesitant to the idea. James is now under new management and a giant label who have allowed him to stay in a swanky Hawaii beach house while he records his new radio friendly album. James hails from Indonesia where he was raised by his father and lived with his older brother Jaya (Alex Dayuha), but he continuously struggles with wanting to be his own voice, instill his Indonesian roots and still appease to the bullshit mentality that is the record industry. Rich Brian an artist himself appears to be having a blast even in the more difficult scenes channeling the thoughts and words he may not be able to speak out loud as a well known artist. There are days filled with arguing about music vides wardrobe, sending in voice recording to promote radio stations and of course an endless array of “yes men” who just support James in order to find the next party. Even with the return of his father during the week of his brother’s passing James continues to feel alone and unheard. His father speaks only Indonesian and therefore is seen more as a nuisance to James’ label company, but it allows them to have their own private conversations whether they be hostile or not. Brian and Unru’s performances and chemistry is clearly the driving force of the film, but every conversation is even more so lifted by Chon and cinematographer Ante Cheng’s bobbing camera that gives the whole thing a dreamlike feel where time and space are not existent. The whole film feels like one memory, particularly one of the film’s best scenes that involves some drugs and a strip club that can come across as uncomfortable but is actually more grounded in its ability to show how many of us will take any opportunity to feel real connection with family regardless of the situation.
The film may begin with an old story of two birds looking for a home and each other it becomes clear the allegory that is set in place, but nonetheless this is a film that doesn’t shy away from its more melodramatic roots and with Chon’s more strategic directing and his actors’ performances never comes of lifetime movie, but rather just life in general. JAMOJAYA is not the film for those that require an ongoing plot, but instead one that knows that when we reflect on loved ones there is very little reason to be consistent. With family pain there will always be ongoing fighting, forgiveness, and regret. JAMOJAYA may find itself at a conclusion of somewhat answers, but even the filmmakers know this isn’t a certainty, there will be more memories to come and disrupt the peace, but with chaos comes beauty and Chon thinks we can easily live with both.
JAMOJAYA PREMIERED AT THE SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL. IT IS CURRENTLY SEEKING DISTRIBUTION.