Bil’s rating (out of 5): B
USA, 2021. SECTION 5. Screenplay by Justine Bateman. Cinematography by Mark Williams. Produced by Justine Bateman, Larry Hummel, Michael D. Jones, Matt Paul. Music by Vum. Production Design by Fernanda Guerrero. Costume Design by Peggy A. Schnitzer. Film Editing by Jay Friedkin.
Olivia Munn plays a studio executive who is challenged in all aspects of her life, working for a production house whose head (Dennis Boutsikaris) doesn’t respect her despite her high rate of success, while her brother back home criticizes her lack of concern for their ailing mother, whom she has not seen in years, and blames it on her devotion to her “Hollywood lifestyle”. Best friend Luke Bracey offers a shoulder to cry on which later becomes a love affair when they decide that they might as well, since they’re usually the two hottest people at the parties they go to and nothing else that happens in this film is credible anyway. The intention of Justine Bateman’s insufferable directorial debut, which follows her lead character from production meetings to soulless industry parties, is to immerse you in the experience of being Munn’s character, with rapid cuts to fast-paced childhood memories of riding bikes and grass blowing in the wind that pop up frequently and sometimes grace the corner of the screen, magically appearing as projections on the wall as if from her imagination (she’ll never be that free again, she reminds herself). This isn’t obvious enough, however, so we also get the voice of doubt in her mind, performed rather illogically by Justin Theroux but written with very little connection to what Munn is doing on screen and often sounding like it’s coming from another movie, while on the actual screen words appear in giant, cursive script detailing her thoughts.
In other words, this movie is not an immersion into the world of a woman struggling to keep her head above water, it’s an assault on the people watching her, for while Munn’s character’s plight is sympathetic and one that many a busy person can identify with, the lack of faith that Bateman has in her actress being able to transmit all this information without an instruction manual, and in the spectator being able to receive it the same way, is, to put it mildly, an insult. Not that the concrete story elements work either, most of the dialogue sounds like it’s been clipped from bad after-school specials and never has the specificity necessary for good drama; Munn tells her brother that their mother was mean and terrible but for some reason can’t think up an actual memory of something mean or terrible that she did, as if she has been improvising everything on the spot and Bateman only had time to get her first take. Much more unpleasant are Munn’s intimate scenes with Bracey, which feel as if the two of them were forced to perform them before actually meeting. To never allow a character to have mystery or give the actor the opportunity to make choices is really the opposite of the magic that attracts us to cinema, denying us enigma basically makes it a commercial, and an aggravating one at that.
Toronto International Film Festival: 2021