Casey and Stassidy (as I call them) have encouraged me to see as many films as possible and then rant about them to you all, so brace yourselves for some caffeine-induced balls-to-the-wall opinions on movies that you've seen, and even more that you haven't.
Recently I had the pleasure of attending a special screening of an indie film Outside In as part of the Cascadia International Women's Film Festival in Bellingham. This romantic drama follows Jay Duplass as Chris, the childish ex-con protagonist, alongside Edie Falco who plays Carol, his old school teacher who got him released after 20 long years of imprisonment. When their eyes lock at his welcome home party the audience is immediately queued in on the romantic, and yes, heart-wrenching relationship they share, but what goes unsaid is that Carol has a husband and a teenage daughter. big YIKES.
The film is set in Granite Falls, Washington, and did a marvelous job of showcasing the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest in a such a realistic fashion I could feel the cold, depressing weather. It also mentioned Walla Walla, Washington (my hometown) but that was namely because that's where the state penitentiary is...😐 nice.
The movie's reviews present an interesting dichotomy between critics and consumers wherein critics overwhelmingly love it, and consumers feel very meh about it. The topics of reintegrating felons into society, mandatory minimum sentences, and forbidden romance are all very interesting and should be talked about, and I absolutely adored the original score for this film (way to go, Andrew Bird!). Other highlights include: an essence of realism that feels very familiar, a natural tempo and good pacing, and wonderful acting on most accounts, especially Edie Falco.
Okay, remember the good parts cuz I'm about to go HAM!!
The quality of the production was exceptional, especially considering the fact that it was only a 20 day shoot, however there were still some unfortunate oversights that made me say "😨". For example, in a scene where Chris and Hildy (Carol's daughter) are walking their bikes the sound quality is pretty inconsistent, and though it was a subtle difference, it was enough for me to notice. That scene progresses in an alternation between a longshot of the two of them walking and a shot/reverse shot of each of them, which is a great container for the narrative nature of the scene, but the lighting was atrocious. In the scene Hildy (Kaitlyn Dever) is illuminated beautifully by the sun, but when you cut back to her she is entrenched in the grey lighting from the overcast sky, cut back again and she is lit up once more like the fourth of fucking July. That shit made me clench my buttcheeks.
Okay, let's talk about the story itself.
There is almost no character growth on behalf of anyone, let alone Chris, and this issue is compounded by the fact that they rarely show any agency. Yes Chris goes out to apply to jobs, and yes we get to see him struggle to reconnect with an old friend, but the only thing he actually fights for, like really truly fights for, is Carol. Which seems romantic, but the emotional climax of that fight is manifested through Chris trying to convince Carol to spend a day with him, but instead of being portrayed as a love-sick man in desperation, he comes across as a whiny teenager who believes that if he seems sad enough he will win her over, which he does. Not a great move on her part, considering she is a high school teacher and should know better.
While we're at it, Carol is a super passive character, whose only interesting trait is that she loves doing legal work (like what she did to get Chris out of prison) but we never actually see her do, or hear her really talk about any of it. And while I will always have a crush on Edie Falco because she is an amazing actor, seeing her play the role of hardworking wife who cheats on her husband while her angsty teenage daughter lashes out gave me flashbacks of Nurse Jackie, and I was not fucking expecting that to say the least. To her credit, she plays that role well.
The realism of the piece was spot-on in form, but content suffered because of it. You could tell that the viewer was supposed to be looking in on a series of moments in this person's life, but because of the brevity of the story telling style, you don't actually get to spend any quality time with the protagonist that makes you fall in love with him, or have you want to see things from his perspective.
Aaaaaaaannnnnddddddd last, but not least, every female character of significance makes a sexual advance toward Chris, which is sorta unrealistic, and very yucky. With Carol it's cool because, well, that's the entire story. But her daughter, Hildy, spoons Chris in his sleep. Another female character who Chris went to high school with basically gives him a footjob (??) on his couch, and kinda objectifies the crap out of him. While these situations spark fruitful conversation about issues of consent and sexual assault against men, it was not a breath of fresh air to see the value of women characters who are so close to being dynamic reduced down to their sexuality. It was more like a big 'ol breath of fart.
Overall, this movie for me was just OK. I would liken it to putting yeast on popcorn: interesting, yet bland. The stronger elements of it were truly a joy to watch, but the other things make me question why it has a 94 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Would I recommend it to a friend? Absolutely. Would I watch it with my parents? Hell no, on account of the very awkward sex scene between Christ and Carol. Would I watch it again? Yes, but only if I could make jokes the whole time.
Welp this does it for my first official movie review, I'll talk to y'all next time if Cass and Stace actually let me blog again LOL