Tribeca Film Festival: Day 1 Round-Up
Stephanie Archer reports on her time during Tribeca Film Festival 2017, red carpet events, interviews, reviews and more!
Walking into the Cinépolis Theater in Chelsea New York, I was blown away by all the signage promoting the Tribeca Film Festival – this was really happening. For years, I had dreamed of attending the festival, a dream finally reaching fruition – and what a day it was. Weeks earlier, I had selected the films I wanted to screen, the list I had to choose from overwhelmingly vast and diverse.
It was awesome to see the range and variety of films that the Tribeca Film Festival is willing to showcase and feature – there is no limit to the success and the acknowledgement within the film community. For Day 1, I poured over the films I could see and possible events I could attend – overwhelming and exhilarating. I finally decided that for Day 1, I wanted to screen Flower from director Max Winkler and Psychopaths from director/ writer Mickey Keating. Flower I had seen pop-up on numerous articles amping up the hype for the upcoming festival. It was on several outlets’ “most anticipated” lists, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to view it.
The second film I chose was Psychopaths – a film that had been selected as one of the festival’s Midnight Narratives. From the title, it screamed horror, a genre that is a favorite of mine. For the past few years, some of the best and most talked about horror/ thriller films of the year have come out of various film festivals. While I had only a brief synopsis to go by on IMDb, a screening of a horror was a check box on my list that needed to be marked off.
For the last part of my whirlwind day, I had the opportunity to attend the red carpet event for the premiere of Aardvark, a directorial debut by Brian Shoaf and starring Zachary Quinto. Having planned to screen this film the following day, it was the perfect chance to see, and possibly meet, the stars and creator that had brought this film to life.
Flower can be seen as a humorous mixture between Bonnie and Clyde and Juno – yet with more vulgarity and less predictability. Brought to life by director Max Winkler, Flower is a coming of age tale about a young girl whose vigilante driven mentality finds a mission in her new found step-brother. Yet, with the discovery of her stepbrother’s secrets and a mission that may be bigger than the undertaking, she finds that life will never be the same.
Immediately at the start of the film, viewers are introduced to a mother and daughter family unit that gives off more of the vibe that they are best friends rather than mother and daughter. Erica (Zoey Duetch) is a smart mouthed, witty teen who finds pleasure and business in providing downstairs pleasure to men – hoping to save enough to bail her dead beat father out of jail. At times she is overly rude, mean and vulgar, yet through Erica’s eyes you can see there is a kindness and a deep rooted pain. With her mother’s (Kathryn Hahn) new relationship comes the possibility of a new family, an idea Erica initially rejects. Though when she finds out a teacher (Adam Scott) has gotten away with a crime against her new step-brother (Joey Morgan), she sets out to set everything right, finding more than she bargained for or could have ever anticipated.
Zoey Duetch was the stand out star of this film solidifying her up-and-coming star status. For a fleeting moment in the beginning of the film, I doubted Duetch’s ability to bring a credible performance to the screen. Yet, she quickly earns your affections as a free-spirited, vulgar teen whose middle finger attitude towards life and others is solidly delivered and carries much of the humor within Flower. This doubt in the beginning can instead be attributed to a staged and less believable opening. This was a flaw that plagued a few scenes throughout the film, these scenes quickly recovering however based on the script material and performance that the strength of the cast was able to deliver.
There are moments within this film where life is a revelation; seeing things with a once naive eye, reexamined constantly throughout the film to provide a difference understanding and a different perspective. It is a parallelism to the coming of age story that Flower is trying to tell. As we come of age, the things we believed and held to be true as a child are no longer what they once seemed. New information and perspectives have transformed these once held truths into something else – either good or bad.
Walking out of the theater, I wasn’t sure what to make of Psychopaths (“What did I just watch?”). The distorted, pieced together story of a night full of violent rampage from four psychopaths was at times an acid trip I wasn’t entirely convinced would work. Yet, it was a film that I couldn’t stop thinking about following its screening. It’s at times grotesque imagery was burned permanently in my mind – this would be a film I would not be forgetting anytime son.
Written and directed by Mickey Keating, Psychopaths begins with a rough in-prison video of famed killer Henry Starkwether (Larry Fessenden – whose performance screams inspiration from Jack Nicholson) explaining the existence of evil – that it just exists, with no explanation. He claims that his execution will not bring an end to the evil within him, that it will instead unleash a night of rampage throughout the city. His prophecy comes true, as the narrator explains, the moment the coroner announces the time of his death.
Immediately, viewers are thrusted into a graphic, grotesque and ambiguous night of violent terror lead by four different Psychopaths – a sailor moon-esque masked killer (Sam Zimmerman), a Femme Fatal killer (Angela Trimbur), a multiply personality show girl killer named Alice (Ashley Bell) and the midnight strangler (James Landry Hébert). Arguably there is a fifth psychopath in the mix in the form of a corrupt local LA cop (Jeremy Gardner), though his terror is only hinted upon for part of the film. Through the utilization of these psychopaths, this question is posed to viewers: does evil beget evil? Or are all the happenings being displayed on screen a product of pure coincidence?
Back stories for each of these psychopaths is briefly touched on, with not much depth provided, or required. The tiny tidbits of information are available to build a structure and to help move the story along. The lack of back stories supports Henry Starkwether’s belief that evil just exists. It doesn’t care who you are, what you have done or where you came from, when evil finds you, in that moment you are who you are.
Mickey Keating utilizes nontraditional shots throughout the film, framing is at times skewed and rotated 90 degrees, giving viewers a demented and broken view of what is going on in the minds of the killers and in some cases the victims – a “world turned on its head” kind of viewpoint. When the psychopaths are shown on screen, Keating uses close and tight framing on their faces, creating a more intimate moment as well as creating a perceived environment that is their own and that they completely control. They are the focus in their world, not the individuals they are affecting.
Aardvark Red Carpet Event
This was one of the coolest experiences of the evening – a Red Carpet Event. Having never participated, or even seen one, it was mind blowing to see the staff coordinate and direct everything and everyone into place for the arrivals. I waited with members of the press, and lined up in front of a sign reserved for Film Inquiry. Further mind blowing, and a bit surreal, was when the cast and crew began to arrive.
It was exactly like I had imagined a red carpet would go, the cameras flashing, members of the press yelling out names for interviews. Yet, what surprised me the most was how organized it really was. Actors were lead and introduced to the member of the press by their name and publication. It was so less animalistic than I had imagined it would be. I was terrified as it was approaching my turn to interview, but the interviewees aired such a relaxing aura that made it all somewhat calming. My heart was racing, don’t get me wrong, but realizing the cast and crew were excited to talk about their new film made everything easier.
The highlight of the event was the opportunity to briefly interview Dale Soules, who plays Lucille in Aardvark alongside Zachary Quinto. Many will recognize Dale Soules from her roles in The Messenger, AWOL and Orange is the New Black. In this film, she is a part of the mental instability and sometimes delusional mind of Josh (Zachary Quinto) – an individual who is as unique as the animal singularity known as the aardvark.
Stephanie Archer for Film Inquiry: What drew you to this role?
Dale Soules: I have a lot of personal connections to metal illness, so my managers said you have an audition for this, here’s the script and I read the script, I really loved the character and I felt that any investigation of mental illness that lights up and illuminates how easily it is to cross that line so that people understand it’s not such a big gap between their every day experience and someone that does have a problem.
So you would say this is a great movie that brings awareness to mental illness?
Dale Soules: Absolutely, in a very specific and very idiosyncratic way, like as the aardvark is to the animal world so this character is to life in general – one of a kind.
How was working with the director?
Dale Soules: Wonderful. It’s his first film. I believe he and Zachary went to school together at Carnegie Mellon together, undergraduate. We had very easy conversations, very in depth, very open. I really enjoyed working with him.
A Sign of Things to Come…
At the completion of day 1, the quality of films being screened only heightened my anticipation for the films I would see over the next few days. With three more days of festival participation, I can not wait to see what else the Tribeca Film Festival has to offer!
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