Screen Shot 2018-08-30 at 8.31.30 AM.png

Philadelphia's independent voice
for film criticism.

PFF Springfest: Wild Rose, The Art Of Self Defense

PFF Springfest: Wild Rose, The Art Of Self Defense

Philadelphia Film Society’s Springfest continues today and tomorrow, here is what I saw yesterday:

Wild Rose (dir. Tom Harper)

Country music is just three chords and the truth. At least that's what the tattoo on the arm of Rose says. That is why she likes it- it's a simple concept to embrace for somebody whose life is anything but simple. 

Wild Rose starts out with our heroine, Rose, getting released from a Scottish prison in Glasgow after a year long stint, and her number one goal for getting out is to move to Nashville to become a famous country singer. Glasgow, unsurprisingly, is just not the place to be if you want to be the next Dolly Parton. To further complicate matters, Rose is coming home to two children-a 5 year old son and 8 year old daughter- that she had before the age of 18. Nashville seems about as far away as Mars. Yet still, she is one of thousands of dreamers vying for limited slots in the quest for country music fame. 

Jessie Buckley makes a star making performance in the title role of Rose, the young woman stuck in this fantasy she can't let go of. But after a few scenes of her performing onstage with her band, it isn't hard to see why she holds on so tightly to this dream. She has a pure, earned and hardened country voice- and unlike so many others who seek to live the life she dreams of, she has lived it. It turns out that the outlaw state of mind sows a lot more than good songwriting material. It brings real life consequences, the kind that Rose is constantly fighting with her mom (Julie Walters) about. 

Ultimately, it is a movie about the constant balancing act in life of pursuing your dreams when the deck seems stacked against you. Perhaps your dreams of a better life far away pale in comparison to the life that is waiting for you right in front of your eyes. It is a misty eyed heart warmer, full of beautiful music, and very much in the ballpark of being this year's Sing Street. 

Wild Rose is in theatres June 14th.

The Art Of Self Defense (dir. Riley Stearns)

Fight Club is the kind of movie like One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest or Heathers before it, that captured a certain generational ennui and sense of rebellion. "You're not your fucking khakis" said Brad Pitt as Tyler Durden, in a revolutionary statement that now seems pretty obvious and like it belongs on a shirt in Urban Outfitters. Yet at the time, it was a revelation. Riley Stearns' newest film The Art Of Self Defense functions as an update on the generational statement of Fight Club, for the era of toxic subreddits, and online radicalization.

A perfectly cast Jesse Eisenberg stars as Casey Davies, a 30 something man with a feminine name who wants to find a way to protect himself after he is brutally mugged one night by a marauding crew of masked vigilantes. He finds a local Karate club that functions much like a bizarre cult, headed by a never better Alessandro Nivola. The humor is a supreme cringe fest of the highest order, that might serve to alienate some people in a manner similar to the films of Yorgos Lanthimos. Yet Stearns possesses the ability to do far more than provoke, which Lanthimos often seems to stop at. The Art Of Self Defense is a complete vision of what an American man can do in today's world when he takes all the wrong messages from feeling emasculated. A quick glance at the news can make it all too obvious why such a film is so relevant today. 

Yet if Stearns had tried to tackle the subject head on it would be so much less interesting than what we have here. A heightened, hilarious satire of the modern search for masculine identity.

The Art Of Self Defense is in theaters July 12th.

Motel Mist is a sleazy slow-burning mystery from Thailand

Motel Mist is a sleazy slow-burning mystery from Thailand

This Hellboy trades weird for gore with mixed results

This Hellboy trades weird for gore with mixed results