Movie Review by Joan Ellis –


During the first hour of Damsel, we are introduced to Sam (Robert Pattinson), a determined man heading west to find Penelope (Mia Wasikowski), the woman he has decided to marry. He has by his side a miniature horse named Butterscotch, in his pocket a wedding ring for Penelope, and on his shoulder a guitar. He searches for the Parson who will perform the marriage and finds him dead drunk lying on his back in the dirt. As they set off to find Penelope, we are wondering why we are supposed to like a movie about an oddball man searching for his woman, a drunk Parson, and a miniature horse.

Our wondering begins to melt when the two men find the cabin where Penelope lives with Anton, the man she loves. Sam and the timid Parson (David Zellner) sneak forward until Penelope’s lover comes outside to relieve himself. Bam. The lover goes down. When Penelope emerges to the awful sight, the movie takes off in the direction it has been preparing us for. This story that unfolds in pre-feminist 1870 is a comic modern take on the real-life roles men have been playing for generations.

Now we begin to understand what writer/director brothers David and Nathan Zellner are up to. The pony, of course, is treated well by everyone; no discussion about that. The men are simple minded relics as they continue to expect to have everything their own way.

Doesn’t every woman wait for the man she likes to make all the moves toward permanence? If the man has decided which woman he wants, doesn’t he already own her even if she loves someone else? For a man, isn’t the whole outdoors his private bathroom? Isn’t it the man who chooses the ring and decides when to give it? Isn’t the miniature horse the perfect anchor for a woman? Once in charge, won’t the man announce where they will live and what each will do? Doesn’t the man always use weaker men to advance his schemes? Hasn’t this all been happening for centuries?

Wrapped in grand exaggeration, Mia Wasikowski’s Penelope hammers home historic male entitlement. She fires back the modern feelings women have toward male dominance. Silent only when the men’s words and behavior are beyond believing she makes us laugh in recognition. As Wasikowski stands strong and ridicules traditional male ways, her performance is made of steel.

Damsel is the brainchild and questionable gift of David Zellner and Nathan Zellner who wrote, directed and acted one of the roles. Their clash of modern values erupts against beautiful western scenery where they create two dense traditional men against one smart woman who has already evolved into the norms of today. It may be set in 1870 but its roots are still present and the two Zellners make us cringe as they face Mia Wasikowski’s terrific Penelope who saw through it all many decades ago. This is a strange one. Odd plot, odd acting. Only you can guess whether you’ll like it.

Film Critic: Joan Ellis
Film Title: Damsel
Word Count: 501
Running Time: 1:53
Rating: R


Movie Review by Joan Ellis –


Boundaries is a family story shot through with smiles and a bucket of eccentricity. With lesser actors, this movie could have fallen flat. But the truly good cast makes it jump alive to the point that we roll between feeling sadness and affection.

Laura (Vera Farmiga) is the mother of Henry (Lewis McDougall). They live together in a house full of the dogs Mom acquires whenever she sees one who needs a home. Henry is an isolated student at school because he is an oddball artist who draws family and friends in their naked states and doesn’t mix with other students in any way.

Laura’s father, Jack (Christopher Plummer) has been kicked out of the old folks’ home and arrives to live with Laura and Henry. But Laura, with sore memories of her father, puts him, Jack, and a few favorite dogs in the car to drive south to Los Angeles to deposit him with her sister. The road trip is the gut of the movie and by the time it’s over, we know three generations of this family well.

Christopher Plummer unfolds his bizarre character quietly while using the road trip for his illegal drug deliveries. He enlists grandson Henry in his illegal doings. Oddly, that is perfectly credible because young Lewis McDougall creates Henry in such an original way that everything that unfolds makes perfect sense. He and his oddball grandfather convince us of their eccentricity (to put it politely).

When I asked myself why I was feeling a bit sad for Mom, I began to understand she loves both her father and her son even though she is no match for either of them. Add to that the fact that she cannot turn away from any dog who needs loving. She takes care of all of them.

Vera Farmiga does a fine job of thinking she is delivering her Dad to her sister and pulls us along with a smile as she, in her innocence doesn’t understand what her guys are up to. If any of us had five dogs in the car for that long trip, every one of us would start to come unglued. She creates a fine thoroughly rattled mother.

Christopher Plummer never overacts as the oddball grandfather. He simply creates a quiet, reserved, nut who reveals little of what goes on in his head. In spite of his character’s illegal ways, he makes Grandpa a criminal, but still a slightly lovable one.

It is Lewis McDougall’s Henry who is a genuine original. He lifts us into the world he inhabits as he draws his comic pictures, quietly helps his grandpa, and loves his mom. This is a young actor so right for his zany part that we wonder how on earth he can ever play another character.

Boundaries is an eccentric movie about a family of crazies. Some of you will love it. Others will dismiss it. I left the theater with a nagging curiosity about the personality of director Shana Festa.

Film Critic: Joan Ellis
Film Title: Boundaries
Word Count: 496
Running Time: 1:44
Rating: R
Date: June 17, 2018

This review was posted on June 17, 2018, in Comedy, Drama.