Well this is as FUCKING UNUSUAL as promised. Like no piece of cinema I’ve ever seen before, begins in a dream built of bewildering woozy close-ups sliding over people’s mouths and off behind their shoulder through a guttural Lynchian sound design, and then never leaves it, just pulls you through its 90 minutes in a writhe of emotions and bodies and masks in a warped mirror of the cultish, ethical labyrinth that is so often a physical theatre troupe’s ~artistic process~. Madeline’s Madeline is a horror movie for the theatre set, two members of which I brought with me (I had a hunch), and we stumbled out partly delirious and sharing traumatized tales of Evangelines we’d known.
What I liked best was the final 20 minutes or so, a vividly still and then wheeling kaleidoscope that felt like the film was collapsing into a kind of humorous realism all while reaching its most surreal heights, in a finale one of my friends winningly described as “Sleep No More done by the cast of Cats.” Something was ready to break in me at this point, and one particular visual joke by the stage manager character (Sunita Mani, wackily endearing as she is on GLOW) cracked me so soundly that I doubled over into a full belly laugh.
I’m sure that this is not going to be one of my favorite movies of the year or anything, but I value it a lot. Again, it looks and sounds like nothing else playing, and that’s just a neat thing to experience. And I feel like this is going to lodge itself in the river of the medium, and maybe divert a path or two, and somewhere downstream I’ll recognize the impact of this movie on one that will be a favorite. If nothing else, we have a star in young lead Helena Howard. “A whole damn star, like a planet that is impossible to comprehend with what we know of the universe right now,” as Barry Jenkins enthusiastically described her.