To Live and Write in LA

LA Film Fest: Two Scary Ladies – Sophie Lowe and Beth Riesgraf Turn Clichés on Their Heads

(Originally published on Blogcritics.org)

Women are typically the victims in action and horror films. Two films at this month’s Los Angeles Film Festival flipped these genre clichés on their heads.  What Lola Wants and Shut In feature two scary ladies who are not damsels in distress.

What Lola Wants

Sophie Lowe as Lola and Beau Knapp as Marlo take viewers on a cross country chase in ‘What Lola Wants’

Sophie Lowe as Lola and Beau Knapp as Marlo take viewers on a cross country chase in ‘What Lola Wants’

Intense performances from Sophie Lowe (After the Dark, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland) as Lola and Beau Knapp (Super 8, The Signal) as Marlo, make what would have been a rather mundane tale with a semi-surprising twist in the second half into an interesting experience.

Seventeen-year-old Lola is a spoiled rich girl with parents who are both movie stars. She fakes her own kidnapping – I can’t tell you why – and during a cross-country run meets up with a pick-pocket, whom she intimidates into giving her a ride. The film revolves around how their relationship develops and, to a lesser extent, evading the police and Marlo’s mother.

Knapp, who plays the Southern pickpocket Marlo, channels a young Elvis with a little James Dean thrown in. His character appears to be happy go-lucky at first, till his mother, played as total trailer trash by Dale Dickey (Iron Man 3, Super 8) starts shooting at him. Marlo owes her a million dollars.

The vignette performance by Charles S. Dutton(Alien 3, Gothika) as a policeman who pulls Marlo and Lola over is a highlight of the film.

Dale Dickey as Mama in ‘What Lola Wants’ is a good shot

Dale Dickey as Mama in ‘What Lola Wants’ is a good shot

The music in the film is eclectic. I was reminded early on of the loud overbearing music of 1960’s European films. It goes vaguely bluegrass when Marlo and his mama are around. Then there’s rock and roll. Strangely, it seems to work.

Marlo and Lola are dual protagonists, each moving the plot forward in their own ways. I did not find Lola very sympathetic, even when we find out the reason for her desperate run away from her LA wealth. Marlo is the more sympathetic of the two. He is a thief, but with a commitment not to physically hurt anyone and he risks his life to help Lola.

 What Lola Wants is a character study hidden inside a chase movie. It’s a fun ride. The trailer is at the bottom of this article.

Shut In

posterShut In is set up like a typical horror movie. (Its poster even looks ripped off from The Cabin in the Woods.) Anna, played by Beth Riesgraf (Leverage, Complications), grew up in a now run-down house with her father and brother. She suffers from agoraphobia and hasn’t left the house in a decade, since her father passed. She has been caring for her cancer stricken brother. When he dies, she is left alone and shut in.

She survives with food delivered by a friendly delivery guy played by Rory Culkin (Signs, Gabriel).

Beth Riesgraf in ‘Shut In’ give a whole new meaning to ‘stay at home girl’

Beth Riesgraf in ‘Shut In’ give a whole new meaning to ‘stay at home girl’

Her agoraphobia keeps her from attending her brother’s funeral, so she is unexpectedly present when local thugs invade her home. Even with the invaders there, she can’t force herself out of the house.

What makes Shut In worth seeing is a series of surprises about Anna, Culkin’s character, the home invaders and her house. What should have been a quick, in-and-out burglary turns into an extended and deadly game of cat and mouse. Several times you will find yourself saying, “Oh, I get it. I know what’s going to happen,” but odds are you’ll be wrong.

Riesgraf’s performance is powerful and believably alternates between sympathetic victim and total psycho.

Anna’s place is not a house where you would want to be shut in, but it’s exciting to watch others in that predicament.

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