Alice (Keke Palmer) has caught the eye of tyrant plantation owner Paul Bennet (Johnny Lee Miller). He teaches her to read and favors her but will not allow her to marry a fellow slave. When her love Joseph (Gaius Charles) tries to escape, Alice lashes out. After enduring a brutal punishment, she escapes through a secret portal in the woods traveling from antebellum Georgia to the early 1970s. She’s found by the side of the road by truck driver Frank (Common) who takes her in and shields her from potential internment at a sanitarium. Alice discovers what the world is like decades later, an improvement from her previous life but with progress still needing to be made. She must find the courage in herself to help her family back home and to inspire Frank to rediscover his activist roots.
Directed by debut filmmaker Krystin Ver Linden, Alice is a highly rewarding time-travel drama. Keke Palmer is superb in the title role. Time travel elements are tricky but I found that Palmer did great job conveying the fish-out-of-water experience while also demonstrating her characters inner strength. Excellent performance by Johnny Lee Miller is truly terrifying in his role. This is sure to be a crowd pleaser especially when through Alice’s POV we get to fight back with her. There are several references in the film to Pam Grier and her character Coffy. The film is set and shot in Georgia which gives the film a great southern Gothic vibe. The soundtrack features some wonderful 1970s jams.
Alice premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.
13 year old Sara (Laura Galán) is incessantly bullied by her peers because of her weight. On a hot summer day, after helping her dad out at his butcher shop, she heads over to the pool to cool off. There she endures harassment by the local girls who call her “Piggy” and stealing her backpack and shoes. When she makes the treacherous walk back home, she witnesses a mysterious stranger kidnaping the three girls who only moments ago were tormenting her. This man has been killing random people in the area but has a particular interest in punishing the people who hurt Sara. She’s conflicted by the attention given to her by this man and whether to help the local community find the girls before it’s too late.
Written and directed by Carlota Pereda, Piggy is enjoyable light horror with some problematic elements. It’s based on the short film by the same name released in 2018. It expands the story into a full length horror film. It reminded me greatly of the last 20 minutes of Catherine Breillat’s 2001 film Fat Girl. Both feature heavyset 13 year old girls who are favored by a much older serial killer and must endure the trauma of not being accepted because of their appearance.
In Piggy, the actress playing Sara is in her mid 30s yet the character is 13. The age difference is very apparent and we have to really suspend our disbelief in order to buy that the character is a pre-teen and not a grown woman. Also, there were a couple of scenes in which Sara devours junk food. These do not serve the plot whatsoever and could have easily been removed to avoid reinforcing stereotypes.
Piggy premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.
Nature sings in Francisca Alegría’s magical realism film The Cow Who Sang a Song into the Future. Magdalena (Mia Maestro) has emerged from the waters where she committed suicide many years ago. She visits the members of her family who all have different reactions to seeing her. Magdalena doesn’t speak but brings an energy with her that sparks electricity and makes the cows, the bees, the fish and other elements of nature sing beautiful music. While herr family is confused by her presence, Magdalena offers no closure; just reconnection.
This hauntingly beautiful Chilean fable reminds us that we are one with nature and we must protect it. It’s not a film to make sense of. Rather one to simply experience.
The Cow Who Sang a Song into the Future premiered at the 2022 Sundance FIlm Festival.
Lucy (Dakota Johnson) and June (Sonoya Mizuno) are inseperable. When Lucy discovers that June is moving to London for her job, she’s beside herself. Especially because Lucy is starting to come to terms that despite many attempts at heteronormative relationships, she’s really not interested in men at all. June tries to help guide Lucy in her new journey of coming out of the closet but their disagreements on how Lucy should go about it and what will happen to their friendship when June leaves for London threatens to tear their relationship apart.
Directed by Stephanie Allynne and Tig Notaro Am I OK? is not your typical coming-out story and in that way it feels fresh and different. Lucy struggles with the intricacies of same sex attraction, especially the mixed signals she gets from her coworker. This film didn’t wow me but it was enjoying. Am I OK? is a heartfelt comedy about friendship and sexuality.
Note to add: I’m not sure when this was shot but there are several scenes that take place in the old 101 Coffee Shop which was a Hollywood treasure until it closed during the pandemic. It’s now one of the locations for the Clark Street chain.
Am I OK? premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.
Emily (Aubrey Plaza) is feeling the weight of $70k worth of student loan debt and a criminal record that prevents her from getting a decent paying job. After covering a delivery shift for a coworker, she’s tipped off on a money making opportunity: working as a dummy shopper. Youcef (Theo Rossi) is the leader of a criminal ring in which he places stolen credit cards with dummy shoppers who will buy high value goods fraudulently to sell them for quick cash later. The gig is unpredictable and despite the danger Emily keeps at it. As Youcef leans on Emily for more advanced jobs, she clings to the hope that a traditional job as a designer might still be in her reach.
Written and directed by John Patton Ford, Emily the Criminal is a tense drama that begs for repeat viewings. It effectively demonstrates the fundamental flaw in our society that prevents former criminals from transitioning into law abiding citizens. It’s also really just an engaging story. Emily the Criminal is a great starring vehicle for Aubrey Plaza. I also really enjoyed Theo Rossi’s performance and his on screen chemistry with Plaza.
Emily the Criminal premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.