Christ, this trailer! Has anyone watched it yet?! I don’t know what the movie’s about, but whatever it is, it’s like they hired Youtube’s Cyriak to put a trailer together for them. Seriously trippie as hell.
This is usually the part where I’d guess what the plot is of the movie, but the trailer is so focused on being a surreal visual acid trip that I haven’t the foggiest idea. But, according to IMDb, it’s about: “A theater director’s latest project takes on a life of its own when her young star takes her performance too seriously.” Yes, because that’s exactly what I got from the trailer.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Helena Howard (making her acting debut; congrats, miss), Molly Parker (AMERICAN PASTORAL , and the upcoming WORDS ON BATHROOM WALLS ), and Sunita Mani (DON’T THINK TWICE  and GLOW [2017 – ongoing]).
Now for the crew. Directing, co-writing, and co-editing, we have Josephine Decker, known for stuff that I’ve either never seen or heard of, and the upcoming ONCE UPON A RIVER (2018). Decker’s partner-in-pen is Donna di Novelli, making her feature-film debut. Congrats, miss. Composing the score is Caroline Shaw, known for stuff that I’ve either never seen or heard of. The cinematographer is Ashley Connor, known for stuff that I’ve either never seen or heard of. Finally, Decker’s co-editors, making for a grand total of three editors, we have Harrison Atkins and Elizabeth Rao, both known for stuff that I’ve either never seen or heard of.
I have no idea what this movie is going to be like, but if the visuals from the trailer are any indication of how the movie as a whole will be like, then this is going to be a thrill ride unlike anything I’ve experienced in a long time. Movie, don’t let me down!
This is my honest opinion of: MADELINE’S MADELINE
Madeline (Helena Howard) is sixteen-years-old and is part of a theater workshop, headed by the unorthodox, but kindly Evangeline (Molly Parker). Madeline displays a raw and powerful presence on stage and Evangeline becomes fascinated by her, which eventually inspires her to create a performance with Madeline as the star. However, Madeline’s complicated life, both with her personal demons and with her mother Regina (Miranda July), begin to complicate her time in the workshop.
I’m calling it right now, I think this movie isn’t going to be for everyone. With that said, I think this is one of the most intriguing films I’ve seen all year. I say that this won’t be for everyone because not everyone will get it. Though, in their defense, as compelled as I am by the movie, I’m not sure even I understand it. Hell, for all I know, there’s not much in the movie to be understood. But, I’ve always been a believer that film is a medium of art, and art is by its very nature, subjective. Open for interpretation, if done right. So here’s mine.
I should also go on record that this review will be next to impossible to talk about without going into spoilers, so readers beware from this point on.
Let’s start easy, the title. Evangeline’s project, which is basically the plot of the movie, revolves around Madeline’s dreams and possible personal life. As we are never made privy to the title of this performance that she intends to put on, I believe that the title of the performance is the title of the movie. If written out on a standard poster, the title would read: Madeline’s “Madeline.” Of course, one could have fun with this and really question my logic and ask, “Well then why isn’t it written like that in the actual title of the movie?” Well, the movie is about mental disorder, wouldn’t you say? Perhaps that could have something to do with it. Like, the play is never enacted in front of an audience, but rather in front of a rather frightened Evangeline in the end, but it was all instigated by Madeline taking over the workshop. So it was definitely a performance, though not in the traditional sense of the word.
That’s actually a big thing about this movie, mental disorder. Most, if not all of the story, takes place in Madeline’s point of view. But exactly how much of this movie are we meant to take at face value? Even the aforementioned ending is inconsistent, which feels very much part of the proverbial tapestry. In one shot, Evangeline goes outside wearing one blouse, but in the next shot, she’s wearing something completely different, which is acknowledged. At one point in the movie, Evangeline even takes Madeline to her home for a family gathering and explicitly mentions that it’s about mental disorder. So much of this movie supports this notion. She’ll encounter a homeless person and wander off, mirroring his strange mannerisms, so she clearly has these episodes. Hell, the movie’s first line is, “It’s all an illusion,” and is repeated at least once more somewhere in the middle. But one could also challenge the idea that maybe she’s just that committed to her acting. After all, it’s not all that obvious in the beginning of the movie about her mental illnesses. In fact, she seems rather normal and just gives her performance her all in the workshop. It seems like her problems only manifest when Evangeline says that she wants to put on a show with Madeline as the lead. Perhaps, this was a case of the snake eating it’s tail, in that she was getting into her own character, which is basically just herself. If I remember correctly, Madeline was on medication, but stopped taking it. Maybe, in her mind, that was part of her process and it only spiraled out of control as the story progressed, and her mental disorder began to reemerge.
Damn it, Michele, you were right. Theater kids really are weird.
I suppose if I had any particular issues with the movie is that there are elements that seem to happen and have absolutely no purpose to the story. We have a scene with Madeline kissing a boy and essentially vowing to lose her virginity to him when she turns seventeen, even though this boyfriend character never makes a second appearance in the movie. Another where Evangeline is driving Madeline home and confesses that she doesn’t know if her marriage will last, even though there’s no evidence to support that, and right after running over something and not bothering to check on it. So one has to wonder what the hell that was about. There’s also a quick scene where Madeline is in a public area, lays out a giant paper, and starts painting on it with her hands and feet. We’re never shown that she’s artistic beyond acting, so that seemed a bit random too.
Overall, this was a pretty damn interesting film and leaves a lot for the audience to interpret. The core cast is pretty great, both Parker and July do a wonderful job, but credit has to be given to newcomer Howard, who absolutely, positively knocks it out of the park. Holy shit, this girl was the entire package. She’s weird, she’s charming, she’s funny, she’s cute, she’s intense, even scary to a lesser degree. By God, this girl needs to get more roles like this because I want to know exactly where her career will go. She’s got crazy talent. For a first outing, this is beyond outstanding. This is a very indie film, so finding it may prove to be a challenge, but this movie gets a high recommendation from me. If you find it, it’s really going to work your brain, so bare that in mind. It’s a very artistic film loaded with metaphors, so be ready for that. If you don’t see it in your local cinema, I say keep an eye out for it on streaming or rental. This is well worth your time.
My honest rating for MADELINE’S MADELINE: a strong 4/5
This week’s reviews
Next week’s reviews
- THE LITTLE MERMAID
- THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST
- THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS
- THE BOOKSHOP
- SUPPORT THE GIRLS
- 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY