Saturday, April 28, 2018

Talking Tribeca: The Party’s Just Beginning

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which takes place April 18th-29th.

The Party’s Just Beginning
Directed by Karen Gillan
International Narrative Competition

A tumultuous time in a person’s life is often the most enticing to spotlight. The less in control someone is of what’s happening to them, the more likely it is than they will go through experiences that will prove difficult and trying to endure. Some semblance of an end in sight, be it a return to normalcy or stability or a far less positive and finite remedy, is necessary to anchor any story, otherwise it’s just a portrait of chaos. Having a magnetic protagonist helps considerably, because investing in their success – or failure – is immensely appealing.

Liusaidh (Karen Gillan) is a twenty-four-year-old woman living in Scotland with her parents, who sit each night eating dinner separately and only speak to her individually when they’re trying to get her to do something. She splits her time between hanging out with her best friend Alistair (Matthew Beard), who hasn’t yet come out to his ailing father, navigating a romance with a British visitor (Lee Pace), and talking on her home phone to a much older man who calls her house thinking it’s a suicide hotline. In between it all, she parties hard, drinking heavily and sleeping with anonymous men at night after working a dead-end job behind the deli counter at a local supermarket during the day.

Gillan is an actress who has appeared in “Doctor Who” and films like “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “In a Valley of Violence,” making her feature debut behind the camera here. She makes a strong impression right away with stylized choices such as captioning Liusaidh’s opening dialogue like a karaoke song. She has crafted an intense character with a lot of spirited energy, diving headfirst into bad decisions and then stuffing French fries into her mouth on her nightly walk home to indicate just how uninvested she is in her own wellbeing. It’s an incredible turn from this young actress directing herself.

The film begins as an incredibly watchable portrait of this self-destructive character. It’s structured in a non-narrative fashion that finds Luisaidh making separate visits to different parts of her life, interacting one-on-one with each of them. It’s not always clear in which order things happen, and while that’s meant to add to the chaos and trauma that she endures, it also detracts from the effectiveness of this film, which is at once quite the party for its protagonist and also no party at all. Gillan is definitely worth watching, if this performance and premise are any indication.


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