Sarah Wright has made impressions in The Loop, The House Bunny, Mad Love and Parks and Recreation, the latter in a small recurring role as Millicent Gergich. In the raucous comedy 21 & Over, releasing to home video on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack this week, she plays Nicole, a college co-ed who serves as the object of affection for one of a trio of randy partiers. I recently had a chance to chat with Wright one-on-one, about the movie, basketball, “flicking the bean” and whether females really talk about masturbation, and more. The conversation is excerpted over at ShockYa, so click here for the read.
Amateurishly staged and unevenly acted, microbudget indie L.A. Superheroes is an indulgent, mishmashed immigrant/fringe-dweller‘s drama in which a couple artistically inclined Los Angelenos struggle to stay afloat (and in the country). Co-directed by multi-hyphenates Yelena Popovic and Alexandros Potter, from what they claim to be a collection of true-life stories witnessed firsthand, this dramatically impotent film serves as ample further evidence that, absent a unifying aesthetic and an artistic hand on the tiller, a camera simply turned back upon “real life” does not a compelling movie make.
Helena (Popovic) is a thirtysomething model who, after her work visa expired, apparently never got around to getting her paperwork in order. She has a wildly terrible manager, Angie (Catherine Carlen), who in addition to borrowing money from her client to make her car payment, also advises her to get a forged passport so she can go to Paris and do this big gig that’ll magically solve all her problems. Helena’s acting class friend, Auto (Alexander Zisiades), is a struggling musician who gets by delivering pizzas, though that doesn’t much seem to quell the rage he has toward the Los Angeles dating scene. After Helena secures a phony birth certificate through a contact of another friend, Sunny (T.J. Castronovo), things go sideways, and she becomes convinced she’s in danger for her life.
Weirdly titled, L.A. Superheroes unfolds in a series of languorously staged vignettes surrounding the fallout of this passport dilemma, but Short Cuts this isn’t. It aims for what is ostensibly a seriocomic tone (Auto’s advice to Helena before entering a potentially dangerous situation is to take a rock and not get shot in the face), but apart from a scene in which a woman feigns an injury in Runyon Canyon to catch the eye of a potential suitor, there’s nothing particularly amusing, clever or insightful about its eye and ear for random detail, and there’s additionally no compelling forward momentum, plot-wise. Helena’s husband gets quickly shunted off to the side, robbing the movie of at least the potential for some greater interpersonal dramatic friction.
Though it does feature a bit of decent music, L.A. Superheroes is shot through with nonsense — full of other tangents that never go anywhere. In theory Helena is also a would-be actress (hence the acting class), but the script attaches no particular aspiration or energy to her plight; indeed, there’s an extended sequence where an old New York friend shows up, invites her to dinner and then harangues her, reminding her that she in fact knows the director of “the year’s biggest movie,” Scumbag Club. Oh yeah, Helena realizes with a shrug… there’s that. Then it’s never really addressed again, leaving a viewer only their own glorious imagination in daydreaming up that fictitious hit. For more information on the film, click here to visit its website. (Simeon Productions, unrated, 78 minutes)
In 1995, Larry Clark’s controversial Kids, penned by Harmony Korine, depicted in unflinching fashion a world of druggy teenage lust and acting out. In 2003, the suburban-set Thirteen, starring Nikki Reed and Evan Rachel Wood, summoned forth some of the same sense of shock (and even dismissal) amongst the chattering class: This isn’t what our kids are doing… right?
Serbian writer-director Maja Milos channels that same raw, unfiltered, devil-may-care adolescent energy of those aforementioned films for her gripping directorial debut, Clip. Unnerving, intellectually thought-provoking and also at times kind of uncomfortably hot, Milos’ careening tale of teenage alienation is a much more acutely drawn portrait of the same sort of snotty, dangerous bloom of uninformed self-regard and material obsession than found in The Bling Ring.
Unfolding in a dreary Belgrade suburb, Clip centers around Jasna (Isidora Simojonivic), a young teenager who enjoys dancing around, lip-synching suggesting pop tunes (sample translated lyric: “My ego starts working and I ditch everyone/I’m a taboo for every male”) and taking even more suggestive cell phone selfies. Her mother (Sanja Mikitisin) occasionally goads her to study or help out around the house, but Jasna seems to live in a consequence-free environment. When her father (Jovo Maksic) is diagnosed with a terminal illness, Jasna — already alientated and adrift — starts partying even more, and enters into an increasingly unhealthy relationship with a boy at her school, Djole (Vukasun Jasnic).
Clip‘s inspiration came from Milos’ surprise at encountering explicit amateur footage of partying teenagers on the Internet — footage they’d uploaded themselves, either unaware or unconcerned with the consequences. And with its own graphic presentations of sexual encounters, there’s a certain jab to the solar plexus quality herein that at times recalls something like the even grittier Baise Moi as much as the aforementioned teen-centric films.
It’s in service of a larger psycho-social exploration, however, quite clearly. A couple of Milos’ story beats feel like academic overreach. There are moments Djole doesn’t react like a real teen; there’s an emotional indifference here that goes beyond blithe, “cool” young-guy posturing and, ringing false, suggests a much more manipulative, sociopathic, thirtysomething club cretin.
Still, if there are trace amounts of didacticism that bubble up to the surface every now and then, part of the skeevy brilliance of Clip is that it isn’t merely assaying unearned adolescent narcissism, it’s digging into the behavior and consciousness of teenagers who, bombarded by images from pornography and advertising, believe they know everything about sex before actually even experiencing it. It’s a generation of provocateurs who can talk about and analyze blowjobs without even really knowing how to flirt (“You play really well,” says Jasna awkwardly, after she and her friends fruitlessly wander several times by an asphalt soccer field on which Djole and other guys are playing.) In fact, when Djole first receives oral sex from Jasna, he’s much more concerned with framing the encounter on his cell phone than enjoying himself in the moment.
Milos’ mastery of charged mood and incorporation of subjective perspective gives Clip a tactile thrill, and it helps, too, that she doesn’t overwrite her movie, leadening it with exposition and obvious statements of feeling. But it would be criminal to praise Clip and not single out the performances Milos gets from her young (non-professional) actors, just as Clark did in Kids. With her raccoon eyeliner and a gaze that can alternate between teenage insouciance, wounded petulance and jailbait smoldering, Simojonivic has this movie in the palm of her hand, even if she doesn’t know it.
In a nice DVD packaging from Artsploitation Films, Clip comes to home video in a clear plastic Amaray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the movie’s original theatrical poster. Divided into a dozen chapters under a motion menu, it features a nice 2.10:1 widescreen transfer, with Dolby digital 5.1 and 2.0 stereo audio tracks under its English subtitles. Bonus features consist of a 12-page full-color insert booklet featuring an essay by Travis Crawford, and an excerpted interview between he and Milos, as well as trailers for Clip and a quartet of other Artsploitation titles, plus the main supplemental extra — a 22-minute interview with the filmmaker, in which she notes the inspiration of various socially aware Yugoslavian films of the 1960s and ’70s, and says that she had “no desire to make a traditional feel-good movie.” Mission accomplished. B+ (Movie) B+ (Disc)