Okay, what the hell did I miss?
As you guys can guess, I go to the movies a lot. Like… a lot. Probably an unhealthy amount. So that should suggest that I’ve seen a lot of trailers. So when new movies come out, I fancy myself relatively prepared for those movies and ready with an impression to share with you all. This… was a movie that I had no idea existed before seeing it. No joke, I simply went to the Arclight Theater’s website JUST TO CHECK if I had missed out on any other movies coming out this week and lo and behold, I see this title.
Naturally, I go on Youtube to check out the trailer and… yeah, okay, I thought it looked interesting, I guess. Looked like it was a story about these two women, best friends, one of them usually a lesbian, but is now dating a guy, they invite the other woman and her boyfriend to a cabin in the woods for a weekend getaway and we learn that the main woman might be developing lesbian feelings toward her. There’s worse ideas for movies out there. And no, my man-brain isn’t taking over to tell you that I just wanted to see hot lesbian sex. So here’s a sponge to clean out your brains.
But here’s the thing that floored me. IMDb, as of 3/14/2017, currently has this flick at a jaw-dropping 9.1/10. Granted, I know this movie’s rating will go down dramatically in a month, but that’s basically saying that this movie is on par with THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994) and both Godfather films. I… couldn’t believe that. I really couldn’t. I might believe it to be good. But… sorry, not that good. Either way, I needed to see this thing and judge for myself.
And when I went to the theater to see this, the hits just kept on coming. The auditorium was packed. As in, I had to get a seat in the second row, packed. So… I repeat my first line of my initial impressions: What the hell did I miss?! How did so many people hear about this movie? I mean, were they family? Were they family of the cast and crew? Actually, K know that wasn’t the case as only the director and one of the lead actresses were there for a Q and A that I regrettably didn’t stick around for. Seriously, why was there such a big turnout? Eh, oh well. Good on this movie, I suppose.
So here we go; cast! About the only actor in this movie that’d be familiar to anyone would be Josh Helman, from X-Men films DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014) and APOCALYPSE (2016). Everyone else, like Celeste Arias, Jennifer Allcott, and Grayson DeJesus are all unknowns. Should be educational.
Now for the crew… which… comes as a surprise. Directing is Helman. Holy shit, young Colonel William Stryker is directing a movie. And this one, no less. But if that wasn’t funny enough, take a gander at Allcott. She wrote this movie. She was also the costumer, the make-up artist, and the producer. Good god, this must have been a cheap movie to make. This isn’t an early criticism, mind you. Quite the contrary. I think any time someone on a film set gets this involved with their movie deserves quite a bit of respect.
Anywho, I couldn’t tell you that I was excited, but I was beyond curious. Now that I’ve seen it, it’s time to render my judgment. Prepare thine self.
This is my honest opinion of: KATE CAN’T SWIM
Kate (Celeste Arias) is in a happy relationship with her successful and wonderful boyfriend, Pete (Grayson DeJesus). Things only get better when her long time best friend Em (Jennifer Allcott) pays Kate a visit after coming home from an extended vacation. She also drops a bomb that she is no longer dating women, but rather a man, named Nick (Josh Helman), and things are pretty serious. Eager to catch up and bond, Nick and Em invite Kate and Pete to their cabin in the woods for a weekend getaway. But tensions begin to rise as Kate starts to develop romantic feelings toward Em, causing complications for everyone involved.
Alright, I actually kind of liked this movie. I definitely don’t agree with that 9.1/10 on IMDb, but it’s not bad by any means.
So first off, the acting really pulls through. Helman is a convincing good-looking guy with a good heart. In fact, that was a welcomed change of pace. I think in a worse movie, it would have been too easy to make him a closet asshole and do that story where the lead tries to convince her best friend that her boyfriend is an ass, but she won’t believe her because she’s blinded by love. You know, that embarrassing cliché. But here, the characters are consistent with who they are. Nick is presented as a good guy, honest, considerate, fun-loving, all that good stuff. He’s likable from start to finish. The same goes for DeJesus, except he’s a little more prominent in his humor. Not sure why, but he reminds me of Tom Cavanagh when he’s asked to play comedy, but DeJesus brings a sincerity all his own. Once again, solid performance, especially in the climax when drama is called for.
But the heart and soul of the movie definitely goes to Arias and Allcott. Their chemistry is beautiful and work so incredibly well off of each other. There isn’t one beat in this movie where their performances aren’t believable. I don’t know if these two women actually know each other in real life, but you completely buy that they’re best friends. It’s the little things that make their shared scenes work so much. Unfortunately, I procrastinated for too long on this review – the curse of having an Xbox One – so I don’t remember too much, but I remember then sharing clothes, one laying on the other’s lap, the way they talk about each other’s lives, both in the past and currently, it all came together so very well.
However, there is one distracting element that didn’t agree with me. The character Em is clearly ripped from BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR (2013). First off, Em is just a shortened version of Emma, the name of the French film’s most notable character. Both characters have short, colored hair, one blue, one purple. Both characters go from dating women to men. About the only real difference is that the lesbian relationship and a young woman’s exploration of her sexuality is the focus of the story, whereas in this movie, it’s sort of a one-off, an exploration of those homosexual feelings while in a heterosexual relationship. While not a bad idea for a story, there’s a few too many similarities between this movie and BLUE to be considered completely original. It could be fairly justified this movie simply took inspiration from BLUE, and I wouldn’t be able to argue that, but the story itself simply isn’t quite original in its own right. One too many parallels.
Also, the climax of the film has some pretty wonky writing here and there. It’s not terrible, but it can be noticeable if you’re looking for it. There’s a line that Kate says, “I’m fucked up, okay?!” And then a few minutes later, in the next conversation, someone else will say how fucked up she is, and then Kate will turn right around and say, “I’m not fucked up!” I guess you could argue that it’s heat of the moment stuff, but… yeah, it was a bit awkward for me.
Also, by the end, there’s some painfully forced drama. Not when the lesbian cheating thing is discovered, but rather after that’s all blown over. Pete’s left the cabin, upset over Kate’s cheating, and even Em calls Kate selfish. So Kate goes outside by the dock to drink heavily and throws this cherished picture that meant something to both Kate and Em since childhood. Regretting her decision to throw it, she attempts to retrieve it, but it floats out of her reach and she’s forced to dive in after it. Here’s the thing, the floating dock has this white bar on the right side, signifying that there’s rocks to the right of the dock. While Nick previously told Pete about it, somehow, this information escapes the knowledge of everyone else. You’d think when you first get out to the water, that white bar and what it means would be some pretty important information for everyone going in. Especially since Nick’s dumb-ass literally throws Kate horizontally into the water. She doesn’t get hurt then, obviously, but considering the scene that I previously mentioned, you know that’s exactly what eventually happens. She dives in, hits her head, and there’s a death fake-out. This was poorly handled and completely unnecessary, if you ask me. The drama already presented was fine enough, and didn’t need a near-death experience to resolve anything.
Overall, this was a pretty solid movie. There’s some good ideas and even a decent execution. Obviously a showcase for its core cast, Helman’s directing, and Allcott’s writing, and everyone succeeds for the most part. Helman’s a fine enough director, Allcott’s writing is good up until the end, and even then it’s not that terrible, and the acting is a knock-out. An impressive first outing for a lot of the talent and I hope to see more good things out of them in the future. I’d say that the obvious inspiration from BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR really hurts the film, but as it is an indie film and you can’t put your best ideas into an indie film if you’re intention is to bigger with your ideas, I don’t complain too much. As is, it’s not perfect, but it’s good. I wouldn’t bother looking for it in your local theater. I was pretty lucky to find this in the one theater in Hollywood that was lucky enough to show it. But if you happen to catch it on possibly Netflix or some streaming site, I recommend it.
My honest rating for KATE CAN’T SWIM: 4/5