The Tribeca Film Festival is as motley as the city whose downtown it takes over for a week and a half every April. As is my typical wont, I caught a handful of flicks screened at the latest edition of the fest. In a year in which nearly half of the slate was directed by women, all of the films I caught had a predominant female presence. Check out my reactions below:
This adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s late 19th century play features a cast of heavy hitters (including the ever-reliable Annette Bening front center), none of whom are Russian. Thus, my primary thoughts are about the accents. The American actors all use their normal speaking voices, while the Brits use American accents, even though everyone is ostensibly playing a Russian. This is no complaint, as I tend to advocate for the needlessness of accurate accents, but I do wonder how Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle drew the short straw in this arrangement. Anyway, the best reason to see The Seagull is Glenn Fleshler (of HBO fame via True Detective and currently yukking it up on Barry), perpetually available on the fringes for a delectable quip.
The feature directorial debut of Nia DaCosta, Little Woods is the one selection from this quartet directed by a woman. It stars Tessa Thompson as Ollie, who resorts to illegally running and selling prescription drugs to support her sister (Lily James) through an unplanned pregnancy and to just get by in the titular North Dakota fracking town. If you’re dealing with your own economic anxiety, I wouldn’t recommend watching Little Woods, as it will probably just stress you out even more. But for those of you in a more comfortable position, it is too unflinching to ignore.
Writer/director Miguel Arteta has made a career out of picking at the rawest scabs of social interactions, and his latest is no different. Co-written by and starring Alia Shawkat, Duck Butter features two young women (Shawkat and Laia Costa) who hit it off when they meet at a club and then decide to spend 24 hours straight together, promising total honesty and sex on the hour, every hour. Personally, I have never seen the appeal of staying up through the whole night, and this film offers plenty of evidence that sleep deprivation does no favors when you’re trying to be emotionally vulnerable.
Sebastián Lelio follows up his Oscar-winning A Fantastic Woman with another story of a love affair oppressively frowned upon by a community. Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams are fiercely compelling as two Orthodox women struggling to find a way to consummate their love for each other when the only existence they have ever known has convinced them it is impossible. Take note, though: there are more glimmers of hope in this one than you might expect. (For more of my thoughts on Disobedience, check out my full review.)