Electrick Children @The little Theatre at Komedia
Posted on 13th July 2012
Electrick Children @Little Theatre at Komedia
Thursday, July 12, 2012
We here at Listomania Towers don't often do film reviews simply because of the difficulty of getting advance screenings, but this one qualifies because it was the inaugural night of the new partnership between Bath's Little Theatre Cinema and nearby Komedia. Effectively, Komedia will provide the Little an oft-times needed third screen.
And a big screen it is, with a big sound system to go with it, and more, which will touch upon in due course. On this first night, the seating was limited to the balcony; the screen was so huge, however, that it amply filled our view. And the sound was completely present, nicely ear-filling but not deafening; very nice. Of course, there will be wrinkles, and I'm sure the man with the iron is coming. One of the wrinkles is visibility and the shallow rake of these balcony seats. This viewer is no giant at 5' 8” but, sitting in the first two rows, the lower part of the screen was obscured by the short wall that prevents one from walking off the balcony to a spectacular landing on the bar below. Even ensconced in higher rows it was not possible to see over the heads of the people in the row in front; I spent the film leaning left to see between them. Nevertheless, this wasn't too great an impediment as long as you know the person to your left. If not, you will know them by the end of the film. Apparently, the ground floor will be available in future, with food and drink as well.
The film, Electrick Children, was particularly engrossing, a very coherent and well made film, a small film – something we tend to associate with the world outside of the United States – and a very good one . It is the story of a 15 year old girl in a Utah fundamentalist Christian commune (read Mormon sect) who becomes pregnant from – she believes, and no evidence is presented to the contrary – listening to a cassette tape recording of Hanging on the Telephone by late 70s LA band The Nerves. This is somehow associated with a story her mother often tells about a red mustang, which turns out to be not a horse, but the iconic car. She, and her stepbrother, escape the severe commune and her looming forced marriage... to relatively nearby den of iniquity Las Vegas, and we are at the core of the film: the collision of the naïve and sheltered Christians with the Vegas underbelly of alienated stoner-punk kids.
There is much here that is inherently funny, but to writer-director Rebecca Thomas' credit, it is not played for laughs. She plots a confident course through Electrick Children that avoids not just easy humour, but also the equally dangerous shoals of sickly sentimentality and melodramatic cruelty. This is Ms. Thomas' first full-length film and she shows a steady hand in all aspects, including her use of the actors. Julia Garner, also seen in the similar but far less satisfying Martha Marcy May Marlene, is excellent, exuding strong will despite her naivety, and an unarticulated rebelliousness. Rory Culkin (yes, folks, another Culkin) has an equally shaded role and plays it deftly.
The story is absorbing from beginning to end, with surreal overtones that remain happily unexplained. Like a Kaurismäki film (e.g., Le Havre, recently at the Little) Electrick Children has a socio-political backdrop, the vast American divide between isolated fundamentalism and damaged worldly experience, and also like Kaurismäki, it maintains a thoughtful faith in humanity.
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