Mar 30

“Krisha”: A Family-Affair Addiction Story

If Krisha’s about more than just putting its audience through one woman’s crucible of atonement, it may be about the limits of forgiveness. How many second chances does a loved one get, especially when they refuse to either change or explain their behavior? Because we share her perspective, it’s easy to feel sympathy for Krisha, fighting for the affection and respect of a family she bailed on. But that doesn’t mean we have to ultimately cave to her emotional appeals. That might be the movie’s most powerful achievement: It literally puts us on its protagonist’s side, then dares us not to abandon it for the other one. A.A. Dowd, AV Club

Indie film Krisha is a family affair in more than one way. First, of course, there’s the (somewhat fictional) family whose story it tells. Key words from various review headlines signal what lies in wait: black sheep, recovering alcoholic, dysfunctional clan, grueling reunion, emotional horror show of a family, not your ordinary family-holiday psychodrama.

Second, many of the cast are in fact family. Title character Krisha, in her 60’s, is played by the now highly lauded non-actor Krisha Fairchild, the aunt of the film’s writer/director Trey Edward ShultsAlso featured in key roles are Trey’s mother (Robyn Fairchild) as his aunt, Trey as himself, and his grandmother (Billie Fairchild).

A couple other interesting facts: Krisha’s character is based on actual kin (though presumably not anyone who’s in the film), and both Trey’s mom and dad happen to be therapists in real life. But as Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune, reassures, “…(T)his is more than a writer-director’s therapy session in the guise of a narrative.”

The setting is Robyn’s home in Austin, TX, at Thanksgiving. Sheri Linden, Hollywood Reporter: “Within the bustling home…relationships gradually come into focus. Key among them for Krisha is her strained connection with her son. Well played by the director, Trey is adamantly closed off to her, especially when she tries to bridge the gap.”

Tricia Olszewski, The Wrap:

…(H)er extended family is huge, including a few 20-something guys, two brothers-in-law, an infant, and her Alzheimer’s-afflicted [for real] mom…

Despite telling herself to ‘chill,’ Krisha, a clearly deeply wounded woman who claims to be a former alcoholic, becomes increasingly anxious and returns to her guest bathroom frequently to pop pills and eventually chug some wine. ‘She’s a little jumpy,’ someone explains. ‘She lives by herself.’

Alan Scherstuhl, Village Voice: “You know, watching, that Krisha — nerve-racked, heavily medicated, aware she’s on eggshells — will eventually be at the center of a disaster…And you know that when it all goes down it’s going to hurt.”

On Krisha Succeeding As a Family Drama and Not Being a “Therapy Session”

Sheri Linden, Hollywood Reporter: “…Shults never indulges in therapy-speak; whether angry, sorrowful, deceitful or confessional, each word is alive, not designed to deliver a message.”

Justin Chang, Variety: “Remarkably…the film sustains its intense commitment to emotional and psychological realism even as everything goes to hell.”

A.A. Dowd, AV Club: “Such aversion to easy psychoanalysis is one way that the film avoids becoming a generic recovery drama, even after an element of addiction is introduced. Intangible cast chemistry is another.”

The trailer’s below:

Mar 18

“Flaked”: In Which a Liar Passes As “Authentic”

One step forward. Twelve steps back. Tagline for Flaked

I’m so confused these days by some of the public’s perception of authenticity. Whereas I’d thought it meant to be true or real, it seems others think it means to lie pathologically. Case in point: the too-widespread perception among potential voters that Donald Trump is “authentic.”

Rather than engage in an argument about the state of politics and particular participants, though, I’m going to provide a summary of reviews about a certain new lying-centric Netflix series that most smart critics deem not worth supporting. (Yes, I’m going for a metaphor here.)

Dennis Perkins, AV Club, sets up the premise of Flaked, starring Will Arnett as a “complete phony” (Willa Paskin, Slate):

Speaking at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, Arnett’s Chip speaks with wry sincerity about the fatal drunk driving accident that changed his life—and ended someone else’s—10 year’s earlier, that signature mellifluous growl urging his fellow attendees to follow his example. The receptive Venice, California audience nods and watches his practiced performance with understanding, receptive eyes as Chip confesses, ‘It taught me to be humble, to be honest. To be brutally humble. About who I am and what I’ve done,’ before he concludes, ‘life must be lived forward but can only be understood backwards.’

Perkins explains Chip further: “[His] rehearsed AA glad-handing…is only ever seen in service of his own agenda—usually either getting laid or extricating himself from relationships after having done so.”

Alyssa Sage, Variety, calls Chip “a habitual liar and self-proclaimed guru who’s straining to maintain his sobriety while attempting to sustain friendships and remain a step ahead of his tangled web of ongoing lies.”

Daniel Fienberg, Hollywood Reporter: “‘You’ve got a serious platitude problem,’ Chip’s buddy Dennis (David Sullivan) tells him, but everywhere Chip goes in Venice, bikini babes coo his name and look to him for glum, empty wisdom.”

But Chip’s not the only one with an authenticity problem, states Fienberg. “The characters all have trouble telling the truth to each other or themselves, so they’re all harboring secrets and those secrets are what’s likely to keep viewers curious, even though a straightforward conversation in five minutes of the pilot could tell us everything we need to know.”

Among the plot lines is a competition between the two male besties for one particular woman. Brian Lowry, Variety, “For much of ‘Flaked,’ that sort-of triangle amounts to all the tension the writing can muster, built around the male duo behaving like 13-year-old boys, where calling ‘dibs’ on a girl makes her off-limits, regardless of her say in the matter.”

Lying, self-serving agendas, immaturity, sexism. Hmm…don’t know about you, but I think I’ve seen enough of that lately.