by Murali Krishnan
Adolescence and young adulthood is a time when people often struggle to find direction in their lives. It is a pivotal time when decisions are made about what they want to do with their future. This film is about a young woman who feels that she is treading water - that her life is idling - and is searching for some type of escape.
Frankie (Lauren Ambrose) is longing to leave Myrtle Beach, South Carolina just as the summer tourist season is about to begin. Her parents had moved to Arizona, leaving the family restaurant to Frankie and her married older brother, Neil (Josh Pais). Her days are spent working in the restaurant, and her nights are spent generally hanging out with her unrestrained best friend, Nicola (Jennifer Dundas Lowe), who runs a small body piercing stand.
When drifter and siren Josee (Joelle Carter) shows up and gets hired as a waitress in the restaurant, Frankie's world becomes unbalanced. Frankie and Josee develop an instant liking towards each other, whereas, Nicola openly antagonistic towards the alluring newcomer, who Nicola feels uses her good looks to get what she wants. Frankie must decide on what she wants from her life and she must come to grip with how her new friendship is undermining an existing relationship.
The strength of the film is its characters. The primary focus is on boyish Frankie, and Ambrose breaths life into the character, without having the benefit of much dialog. The character is both homely and attractive, and she is utterly likeable for her innocent charm, and all these features are communicated nonverbally, because the character is generally introverted and reticent. The role of Nicola is more clearly defined, but Dundas Lowe is able to meet the challenge of reflecting the character's energy with restraint, and not allowing the it to become exaggerated.
The pace of the film is unhurried, so the viewer is steeped in Frankie's world and is allowed to get close to the characters' emotions. The plot is confidently translucent so that course that events will take is never clearly apparent.
Another film may have used the assistance of voice-over narration to allow the main character to directly express her inner thoughts to the audience. However this film forgoes that crutch and undertakes the more difficult task of nonverbal expression for this communication. This is an indication of a solid script, skillful direction, and accomplished acting. The story occasionally tries to do too much (like a minor character with an imaginary friend) but its shortcomings are dwarfed by its accomplishments.
Highly recommended. This is a slow, character-oriented drama primarily about teenage angst. Although not perfect, the film should be commended for its intelligent approach. It is a moving, enjoyable film with likeable, well defined characters, and an engaging story.
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