Wednesday, March 14, 2018

SXSW with Abe: Write When You Get Work

I’m so excited to be attending the film festival at South by Southwest for the first time, and I’ll be posting reviews throughout the week as I see as many movies as possible!

Write When You Get Work
Directed by Stacy Cochran
Narrative Feature Competition

High school is a formative time for many, though it’s hardly emblematic of how a person’s life will turn out. Depending on their circumstances and influences, those who end up in trouble with the law throughout their younger years can continue down that path or change direction once college and adulthood come along. Returning to familiar settings or reencountering those who they associate closely with their rabble-rousing times can trigger a return to old habits that can utterly disrupt a person’s otherwise stable life which looks nothing like what it used to many years and experiences earlier.

Rachel Keller and Finn Whitrock star in the film

Ruth (Rachel Keller) works at an elite New York City private school and becomes the interim head of admissions when her boss is fired. Things are looking great for her career advancement, but the sudden death of an old mentor puts her back in the sights of her high school boyfriend Jonny (Finn Whitrock), who has hardly outgrown his penchant for criminal activity. Jonny begins showing up in every facet of Ruth’s daily life, targeting Nan (Emily Mortimer), a mother of a student at Ruth’s school, who is barely keeping it together as her husband (James Ransone) faces impending indictment for financial wrongdoing and is looking for someone to trust.

The film premieres at SXSW

There are multiple stories at play here in this film, which is probably best described as a comedy, though it’s unclear what genre it really wants to be. The overarching message is one about class and how those with extraordinary privilege concern themselves with new developments like the establishment of a scholarship program at the school which might somehow negatively affect the community of those already enrolled. Nan is an easy mark for Jonny because merely affirming her worldview gets him into her good graces, though his ability to infiltrate her upper crust existence and blend in perfectly without a hint of suspicion from anyone aside from a panicked Jonny is never adequately or believably addressed.

Star Emily Mortimer and director Stacy Cochran discuss the film

Keller, who is a fantastic part of FX’s “Legion,” isn’t given a tremendous amount to work with as Ruth is a thinly-written character whose home and work lives don’t align in a coherent way, and this hopefully won’t be the only lead film role she gets to prove her talents. Whitrock, best known for “American Horror Story,” smiles and charms his way through the film, but it’s not a very layered performance. Mortimer, on the other hand, is the reason to see this film, saying after a screening at SXSW that she had fun playing such a mess of a character. She’s excellent and far above the material, which is inconsistent and perplexing. Unexpected twists towards the end of the film come off as unrealistic rather than impressive, and this film ends on an unfulfilling note that makes the entire experience lackluster.


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