Review: Shiva Baby

Shiva Baby (2021)
Writer & Director: Emma Seligman

Shiva Baby looks and sounds like a comedy but it’s actually a horror movie about being in your twenties, with a surprising vein of emotion. The film centers on Danielle (Rachel Sennott), a college senior whose Gender Studies major makes her parents anxious as it doesn’t seem to correlate with any specific career. They also don’t like — or even totally believe — that Danielle is bisexual. When Danielle joins her parents for the shiva of a family friend, they coach her about what to say about her future prospects and to be on the lookout for potential job opportunities. It’s funny and awkward and soul-crushing for Danielle, who already feels guilty for her lack of ambition. Danielle also has a secret: she’s a sugar baby, a young woman who is paid for her sexual favors. She tells her parents, who support her financially, that she earns extra money by babysitting; she tells her sugar daddy that she needs the money to pay for college. When her sugar daddy, Max (Danny Deferrari), turns out to be a guest at the shiva, Danielle realizes that the lies she’s been telling everyone are about to be exposed. To make things even more complicated, her ex-girlfriend, Maya (Molly Gordon), is also in attendance.

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Review: Leave No Trace

leave notrace

In fairy tales, the forest is a dark, dangerous place, populated by wolves and other menacing creatures, but for Thomasin and her father, Will, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the forest is a respite, a place of quiet and calm. More than that, it’s their home. For several years, they’ve been camping in Forest Park, an enormous urban park on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon. Although they have gone undetected all this time, they still do practice drills in case they should be discovered. In an early scene, Will critiques his daughter’s hiding place, telling her that her socks give her away. Actually, it’s Thom’s eyes that betray her: you can see her loneliness and her restlessness. As a younger kid, 24-7 camping may have appealed to her, but when we meet Thom, she is a young teen, full of curiosity about the outside world and eager to meet new people. The only thing that keeps her in the woods is her deep love and sympathy for her father.

Thom and Will are inevitably discovered, and Leave No Trace tells the story of what happens after: how they adjust to life in the world outside their forest. . .

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Review: Outside In

outside in

Outside In opens with the camera looking down on an ex-con, Chris, heading home for the first time in twenty years. Chris (Jay Duplass) sits in the back of a rain-spattered car window, eating a french fry with a dreamy look in his eyes. It’s probably the best thing he’s eaten in a long time. He will soon be delivered to a room filled with people awaiting his return. But there’s only one person he really wants to see: Carol, his old high school teacher, the person who fought hardest for his early release.

Carol is played by Edie Falco, and from the moment we first see her, she radiates goodness, intelligence, longing, and confusion. She’s in as much of a transitional period as Chris. She’s devoted years of her life to disputing Chris’s conviction, and in doing so, has discovered new reserves of intellectual and spiritual energy. She’s also become very close to her former student. She might be in love with him; he’s definitely in love with her. But she’s married, with a teenage daughter. And she’s still teaching at the high school where she first met Chris as an 18-year-old boy. So things are complicated. Continue reading “Review: Outside In”