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Sundance: Good Luck to You, Leo Grande

Sixty something widow Nancy Stokes (Emma Thompson) is looking for a new experience. She hires sex worker Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack) for an encounter. Nancy’s only ever been with one man, her now deceased husband, who preferred very matter-of-fact sex. Nancy really wants to be adventurous in the sack. And perhaps maybe an orgasm? She’s never had one before. But that might be too much to ask. Leo Grande is more than willing to help Nancy. The problem is that Nancy won’t stop talking, won’t stop worrying and won’t stop asking the fairly secretive Leo questions about his past. As Nancy books several encounters with Leo, she must come to terms with her own views of sexuality before she can find what she’s looking for.

Written by Katy Brand and directed by Sophie Hyde, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is a dynamic exploration of age, sexuality and identity. The story plays out in four chapters and we see both growth and decline with Emma Thompson’s character. She’s absolutely terrific in this, which isn’t a surprise by any means. Thompson boldly ventures to demonstrate that, yes, an older woman can not only crave sex but they can be sexy too. Daryl McCormack holds his own opposite his costar. He portrays that natural confidence that makes Leo Grande such an engaging protagonist. While the first chapter can feel like a bit frustrating, viewers will ultimately be rewarded with the reach the film’s satisfying climax.

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

Update: Good Luck To You, Leo Grande premieres June 17th on Hulu.

Sundance: Am I OK?

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.

Sundance: Emily the Criminal

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.

Emily the Criminal hits theaters August 12, 2022. Visit the official website for more details. #EmilytheCriminal

Sundance: Master

“It’s never going to change.”

The presence of three black women at a predominantly white New England college unleashes a dark and mysterious force in the new horror movie Master. Written and directed by Mariama Diallo in her feature debut, the film stars Regina Hall as Gail Bishop, the new “Master”, aka dean of students, for the fictional Ancaster College. As Bishop tries to settle into her new role at Ancaster, she’s tasked with guiding the board of directors in deciding whether the only black professor on campus, Liv Beckman (Amber Gray), deserves tenure. One of Beckman’s students, freshman Jasmine Moore (Zoe Renee), is struggling to acclimate to Ancaster as she’s constantly confronted with subtle but potent forms of racism from faculty, staff, and fellow students. Ancaster is known to be haunted by a former student and Jasmine happens to have been assigned the same room where the student had committed suicide decades before. As the holidays approach, the deeply rooted racism that has been part of Ancaster’s history from the very beginning manifests itself into an evil force that is hellbent on destroying the women.

Master tackles one of the horrors of our everyday world. In the film, racism haunts its victims like a ghost. It’s a mysterious force that takes many forms and is passed down through generations. It persists no matter how much the characters struggle against it or how much they’re gaslit to believe that progress has been made. Diallo effectively demonstrates the power of racism in pretty much every aspect of this film. The message is there: racism will never truly go away. And that is a horrifying reality.

A must-watch, especially for the performances by Regina Hall and Zoe Renee.

Master premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and will be available on Amazon Prime March 18th.

Sundance: Resurrection

Margaret (Rebecca Hall) needs to be in control. At home, she’s an overprotective single mom to her 17 year old daughter Abbie (Grace Kaufman). At work, she gives important life advice to an office newcomer and keeps her affair with married coworker Peter (Michael Esper) under wraps. Margaret craves control over the people in her life because at one time she sacrificed it her own. And this came at a great cost.

David (Tim Roth), a dark figure from Margaret’s past, is back. Margaret sees him everywhere and despite her attempts to get rid of him, he persists. David has something that Margaret lost many years ago and wants back. Will she have to sacrifice the life she’s built for herself to finally defeat David?

Written and directed by Andrew Semans, Resurrection is like Gaslight (1944) meets Rosemary’s Baby (1968) but on steroids. Rebecca Hall turns a wonderful performance as the increasingly paranoid Margaret. Tim Roth’s portrayal of David is absolutely chilling. The film is perfectly paced, gripping and will leave viewers in shock. The final scenes are unsettling and will leave viewers asking themselves: “What just happened?”. Resurrection must be seen to be believed and even then you might not realize what exactly was real and what wasn’t.

Resurrection premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. It has since been acquired by IFC Films and Shudder.

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