Monday, May 3, 2021

Prom Capades

Sometimes you go into a movie for the wrong reasons and come out happy to discover new ones.

Evil twins and figure skating? I'm in.
Actual decent filmmaking?

Who knew?!

Quick Plot: Maria is a shy high school senior struggling with insecurity and what seems like a serious undiagnosed case of depression. Her best (and only) friend Lily is an aspiring figure skater dating Sean, the one guy in school who doesn't pick on Maria. At home, Maria's plastic surgeon father rules with an icy fist and intensely high standard of beauty, so much so that his proposed 18th birthday gift to his daughter is a nose job and cosmetic ear surgery.

One day, Maria stumbles upon an ultrasound that seems to reveal she had an in-utero twin. After a particularly cruel day at school, Maria meets Airam (get it?), her more confident mirror image, who convinces Maria to trade places.

Cue the succession of dead teenagers-via-head trauma massacre! Lily's offer to teach Maria/Airam how to ice skate turns fatal, followed by poor, easily seducible Sean. Flashbacks reveal Airam's tragic origin, as Maria seems to drift farther away into her mirror prison.

I took a chance on Look Away because the premise seemed interesting enough, the presence of Jason Isaacs and Mira Sorvino is always welcome, but most importantly, THE TRAILER SHOWED FIGURE SKATING.

I will never pass on a genre film that involves my favorite sport.

A good part of Look Away's strength comes from its beautifully deployed winter setting, with snow piled everywhere and the gray overcast adding a moody feel. It gives the film such a specific visual tone, with a sparse and cold atmosphere so fitting of Maria's empty emotional home life (perfectly set in the kind of modern mansion that feels decorated by Lydia Deeks' minimalist rival).

Also, Prom: On Ice.

Seriously, in the world of Look Away, a high school throws its senior prom not at a local country club or banquet hall, but on an actual ice rink. Granted, clumsy students might be no worse in ice skates than they would be in high heels, but STILL.

It's a prom. On. Ice.

Yes, that's enough reason to watch Look Away. It's also rather beautifully made, although I don't know that Assaf Bernstein's screenplay is at the same level as his strong direction. There are hauntingly strong implications in Look Away's resolution, and I rather appreciate its ambiguity, but there's also just something lacking in the story that left the final moments just a tad unsatisfying. 

Maybe if it just had 5% more figure skating-induced violence... 

High Points

It's always a pleasure to see Mira Sorvino and Jason Isaacs onscreen, and they imbue their WASPily twisted marriage with the right levels of broken rich people. Sorvino conveys every bit of insecurity she needs in a glance, while Isaacs slowly lets his character's truly despicable nature unravel without overplaying a single sneer

Low Points
India Eisley (daughter of Olivia Hussey but more importantly, the titular other unhappy poor little rich girl in Lifetime's adaptation of V.C. Andrews' bonkers My Sweet Audrina) is effectively haunting as Maria, and I suppose Maria being the daughter of a plastic surgeon helps sell this, but we're at Chloe Grace Moretz-as-Carrie levels of "really, you're telling me THIS GIRL is considered ugly?"

Lessons Learned
Nice is a boy you don't want to go out with

Nothing kills hockey practice like a makeout session

The best way to convey turning evil: sudden smoking habit and a clean double axel

I went into Look Away expecting a fun dollop of YA-ish thrills, but this is a far more sophisticated film made with some accomplished style. Give it a go when you're in need of something chilly. 

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