Tribeca Film Festival: Friendship, sexuality and a Swedish bank robbery

The 2018 Tribeca Film Festival presented 99 features, 55 short films, 35 immersive storytelling projects, 20 television projects, and 12 NOW (New Online Work) projects representing 46 countries over the course of 12 days this April.

Ridgefield Press Editor Steve Coulter was able to take in a weekend’s worth of film and television at the festival. Here’s a brief recap of what he saw:

The Miseducation of Cameron Post: Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this winter, this coming-of-age drama tracks early 90s teen Cameron (Chloe Grace Moretz) and a band of other misfits as they suffer at the cruel hands of a gay conversion therapist — Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) — who runs a God’s Promise treatment center in the middle of the woods. It doesn’t take Cameron and her friends (notably a great supporting performance from Sasha Lane) to notice that the adults running this faith-based camp have no idea what they’re doing — and might be inflicting more pain on their patients rather than helping them come to terms with their sexual identities. This indie, based on the acclaimed novel, is destined to get a run on the big screen later this year.

Slut in a Good Way: It’s always good to try something out when attending a film festival, and Sophie Lorain’s edgy comedy about a teenager having casual sex at a toy store to ease her heartbreak from a previous relationship is certainly an experiment for casual film fans. Lorain, who is a big name in Quebec in the movie business, creates a strong and fragile protagonist in Charlotte (Marguerite Bouchard), but it is the way she frames her with the camera that stands out. At several points, the audience is left staring at a still Charlotte as she navigates through the crossroads of individuality, independence, and, ultimately, a new-found love. Of course, they don’t come without a cost, as labels — like the one in the title — are branded onto Charlotte’s newfound sexual empowerment.

Stockholm: Robert Budreau teams up again with Ethan Hawke (Born to Be Blue) in this dynamic re-telling of the 1973 hostage crisis in Sweden. Ever hear the term “Stockholm syndrome”? Well, this is where it comes from. Similar to the bank robbery portrayed in Dog Day Afternoon, this situation plays out over the course of more than a day — plenty of time for the audience to get acclimated with Hawke’s Lars and the group of bank clerks who end up defending him from the law. Standout supporting supporting performances Noomi Rapace (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), Mark Strong (The Imitation Game), and Christopher Heyerdahl (Hell on Wheels) make this one a must watch when it hits the big screen.

O.G.: Jeffrey Wright took home this festival’s Best Actor in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film award last weekend, and deservedly so. The Westworld actor delivers one of the best performances of his career as Louis, a 24-year inmate who is about to be released for good behavior. Madeline Sackler’s drama was shot on location at a maximum-security prison, and that realism is infused in every scene. Undoubtedly the best scenes in the film — and perhaps the entire festival — feature Louis trying to make amends with the sister of the man he killed two dozen years before. It’s far from predictable, and they’re not easy to sit through. In these moments, Sackler — who is directing her first fiction film — lingers on Louis’s hardened, regretful face. There’s nothing he can say that will undo his past actions.

Duck Butter: As Jeffrey Wright did, Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development) rightfully claimed the festival’s Best Actress in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film award for her turn as Naima, an actress who searches for love through an intensely intimate romance with the temperamental and beautiful Sergio (played by Laia Costa). The concept — spend 24 hours with someone you just met and have sex with the person each hour — is unlike any explored previously in film, or in life. While the girls believe their plan will remove the deceit that has tarnished their previous relationships, dishonesty and betrayal inevitably seep in and their commitment to one another begins to shatter. A breakfast scene with Sergio’s mother at about the two-thirds mark highlights director Miguel Arteta’s main point: These two would have been much better off as friends. Unfortunately, they’ve already made the mistake of getting too close.

The Seagull: Hollywood’s elite actresses — Annette Bening, Saoirse Ronan, and Elisabeth Moss — flex some pretty serious acting muscle in this adaption of Anton Chekhov’s classic play about a group of friends and family members gathered for a weekend in the Russian countryside. Credit Tony Award-winning director Michael Mayer, working off a script from playwright Stephen Karam, for giving everybody in this ensemble cast an ample amount of screen time to develop their characters’ insecurities, ambitions, and imperfections. It’s a film that is part tragedy, part comedy, and part love story, and one that features a scene-stealing performance from Corey Stoll as the writer Boris Trigorin. This is one you won’t want to miss.

Some films and shows to look out for this summer and fall that were purchased following the festival: Zoe, a sci-fi romance that was purchased by Amazon after making its world premiere at Tribeca, stars Ewan McGregor, Léa Seydoux and Christina Aguilera. Songwriter, a documentary starring Ed Sheeran that made its North American premiere, was bought by Apple. The TV docu-series Staircase was purchased by Netflix and is scheduled for summer release.

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