Friday, March 16, 2018

Movie with Abe: Allure

Directed by Carlos and Jason Sanchez
Released March 16, 2018

Inappropriate relationships are often found in movies. There can be any number of reasons for that classification, whether it’s a romance, a friendship, or a business connection, and regardless of whether the unacceptability of it is a societal shortcoming related to the times or a greater concern for the safety of one individual. What consent means is becoming an increasingly relevant topic within Hollywood and in the United States in general, and it makes sense that such ideas would be explored in film. That holds true especially when most would never even conceive of a relationship building in a certain context and there are factors that affect the way the people involved perceive their interactions with each other and the world.

Laura (Evan Rachel Wood) works for her father (Denis O’Hare) as a house cleaner, a job that keeps her mainly focused and distracted from the troubling behaviors in which she engages as part of her personal life that have led to problems in the past. One of her more reliable jobs introduces her to Eva (Julia Sarah Stone), a teenager who is a talented piano player who feels completely stifled by her single mother’s constant desire to find a man to rescue them from the mundanity of their comfortable lives. Seeking an outlet, Eva latches on to the much older Laura, who feeds into that dependence and encourages Eva to come live with her in secret. While Eva initially seems like she has been rescued and gifted true happiness, it quickly becomes clear that she is far from free and that Laura’s outlook on what their relationship has become is not healthy.

“Allure,” a film whose title works exceptionally well at describing so many elements embedded within it, is billed in some places as a thriller, though that’s not entirely accurate. The pacing here is relatively consistent, and, to its credit, at no point does it suddenly turn into a terrifying look at a girl trapped with another woman who wants her all to herself. When Laura’s grip on reality is exposed as unstable, the film doesn’t dive with her, but instead shifts focus to Eva and how she adapts to the idea of living just for one codependent relationship and denying herself any of the things that she may not have disliked about her old life. Perhaps less admirably, this film and its characters never make it to an acknowledgment of the captive situation in which they find themselves, instead existing for each other and in the moments that make them feel the most alive.

Fifteen years ago, Wood was the teenager in trouble with her incredible, award-nominated performance in “Thirteen,” and now, as the star of the immensely popular “Westworld,” she’s redefined her image as someone more mature but not necessarily any more put together. Her portrayal of Laura is one that doesn’t immediately suggest disarray but is also very detached from all the relationships that she doesn’t see as worthwhile, with Eva serving as the only one that does. Stone, who at a young age was memorable in a recurring role on “The Killing,” demonstrates great skill here as a defiant rebel overcome by her feelings of loneliness and her attraction to this older woman who, more than anything else, actually shows an interest in her. The seemingly omnipresent O’Hare provides dependable support as Laura’s father, aware that she is going through something but helpless to do much to set her on the right track. These strong actors enhance a story that begins as intriguing but doesn’t manage to reach the place it’s seeking to go, offering up an enticing premise without a clear direction.


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