|Energetic Brittany Runs a Marathon sprints to redemptive victory
by Sara Michelle Fetters -
SGN A&E Writer
BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON
Brittany Runs a Marathon is superb. A soaring testament to the human spirit, the film is an entertaining cathartic joy that never shies away from the darker emotional complications that can arise when a person sets out to try and better themselves and live a healthier life. But in showcasing unvarnished truths for what they are, this drama becomes even more inspiring in the process. The feature debut for writer/director Paul Downs Colaizzo, this magnificent little drama was one of the best motion pictures I had the pleasure to watch during this past spring's Seattle International Film Festival. It also just so happens to be one of the best I've also seen this year.
Brittany Forgler (Jillian Bell) is 27, unmarried, unmotivated, barely employed, drinks too much and frequently enters into relationships that could easily be described as being 'toxic.' She's even not above heading to a random doctor complaining of vague illnesses in hopes of scoring a prescription for Adderall. But when Brittany's latest medical foil proves difficult to fool she is instead left with some fairly devastating news as far as his diagnosis of her current health is concerned. He states in no uncertain terms that if she doesn't clean up her act the young woman will be dealing with real problems and not imaginative ones, and instead of giving her a prescription he advises a change in diet and at least some vague attempts at exercise before it's too late.
From there things move in a variety of character-driven directions that, if not entirely surprising, are still endearingly absorbing thanks to their blunt authenticity. Unable to afford a gym membership, urged on by the cranky photographer, Catherine (Michaela Watkins), who has a studio in her apartment building, to try and run a single block and see how it goes, Brittany puts one foot in front of the other and makes a valiant attempt to get in shape. This causes inadvertent friction with her roommate, Gretchen (Alice Lee), leads to an unexpected friendship with fellow newbie runner, Seth (Micah Stock) and a potential romance with slacker housesitting dreamer Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar). It also causes unforeseen complexities, some of them good, some of them bad, most of them sitting in a nebulous moralistic grey area where 'good' and 'bad' have no meaning, with her beloved brother-in-law, Demetrius (Lil Rel Howery), and as he basically raised the young woman after a childhood tragedy, he sees the plusses and minuses of her newfound zeal to better herself far more clearly than she can for herself.
I like that Brittany doesn't become a saint once she decides running is for her. I like that the movie isn't obsessed with her professed goal of completing the New York Marathon. Most of all, I like that Colaizzo makes his main character's journey more about the life lessons she is forced to absorb as she slowly gets in shape than it is in being some generic inspirational comedic-drama about an underdog overcoming impossible odds. Because the filmmaker looks at this woman's life, warts and all, because he refuses to apologize for her when she does or says something despicable, the director's picture achieves a deeply affecting resonance that's far more long-lasting and even more profound.
While the entire ensemble is terrific, especially a sneaky-great Watkins who has far more to do as Catherine than initially meets the eye, Bell is the one who makes this film marvelous. This is the Sword of Trust, 21 Jump Street and Inherent Vice actress's finest hour. Bell inhabits Brittany body and soul refusing to hold anything back as her character attempts to reach her goal and realize the task she has set for herself to accomplish. She doesn't shirk from the growing egotism that's bubbling inside of her as the amateur runner as the former party girl inadvertently trades one sort of vice for another. Brittany becomes increasingly judgmental of others as her health improves and Bell doesn't sugarcoat the innate ugliness of this part of her transformation.
This is a good thing. A person's life isn't just one thing. Their personality doesn't only have a handful of components. More importantly, how we look at ourselves in the mirror, how we assess the lives we have led, all of that plays a part in the mystery of our individual progressions from childhood to our eventual status as an adult. That Brittany is finally able to do this with such stark lucidity, that she starts listening to what others are telling her on a personal basis instead of a superficial one, that is the real victory of her story, and whether or not she is able to run the New York Marathon to completion becomes minor in comparison to her being able to accomplish all of that.
Colaizzo based his screenplay on his real friend and roommate, a young woman who came home one day stating she was going to change her life, started jogging and eventually ran the New York Marathon. But that is only the jumping-off point for what the filmmaker has accomplished with this little miracle of a motion picture. The redemptive clarity of Brittany Runs a Marathon is pure and refreshing, its understanding of people in personal crisis learning to take responsibility for their actions even more so. Colaizzo's debut crosses the finish line and is able to raise both its arms in victorious celebration, this audience-friendly treat an instant triumph worthy of a standing ovation.
|Tasveer South Asian Film Festival announces full 2019 film lineup
Tasveer South Asian Film Festival announces full 2019 film lineup
Special guests include Indian actress Shabana Azmi, BAFTA Award Nominee Suraj Sharma, Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi, Anand Patwardhan, Tanuja Chandra and many more!
SOUTH ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL
September 26-October 6
The Tasveer South Asian Film Festival (TSAFF), the largest South Asian film festival in the United States, is proud to announce its 2019 film lineup. Now in its 14th year, this years country of focus is India and films will screen from September 26 - October 6, 2019, at various venues in the Puget Sound area, including Bellevue Arts Museum, Seattle Art Museum, SIFF Cinema Egyptian, SIFF Film Center, Northwest Film Forum, UW Communications Building Simpson Center (Seattle), UW Physics-Astronomy Building Ronald Geballe Auditorium (Seattle), Microsoft Studio B (Redmond), International School (Bellevue), Tickets for special events, films, gala parties and more are now available at https://tsaff.tasveer.org/2019/.
We are so excited to share some of the most outstanding talents from South Asia in this years festival, said Rita Meher, TSAFF Executive Director. Each year we see hundreds of films through our submission process and it was exciting to see a surge in films created by women, and important stories representing the LGBTQ+ communities across the South Asian countries. The 2019 TSAFF will present 22 feature films and 39 short films during its 11-day run this fall. Programming represents 27 female directors, with six LGBTQ+ films, and represents over 10 countries with over 15 filmmakers in attendance.
On September 26, 2019 the Tasveer South Asian Film Festival opens with the Seattle premiere of Danish Renzus The Illegal (Renzu is director of the award-winning short In Search of America, Inshallah, and feature film Half Widow) starring actor Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi). Both director and actor are scheduled to attend a post-film Q&A. Prior to the screening, TSAFF welcomes and celebrates legendary actress and activist Shabana Azmi, by presenting her with the prestigious Tasveer Emerald Award for her contributions to world cinema. The festivities will kick off at 6:30pm at SIFF Cinema Egyptian (805 E Pine St).
The TSAFFs Centerpiece is The Sweet Requiem directed by Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam and premiered to critical acclaim at the Toronto International Film Festival last year. Both directors are scheduled to attend the screening on Friday, October 4 at 7pm at Physics Auditorium on the University of Washington campus. And lastly, closing the 2019 festival on Sunday, October 6 is the Pakistani crime/thriller Laal Kabootar, directed by Kamal Khan, that offers Seattle audience a refreshing take on cinema from this region. The screening and gala will be held at the Seattle Art Museum in downtown Seattle (1st Ave & University St.) at 2pm. Following the closing night film, stay for the TSAFF 2019 Awards ceremony and party to celebrate South Asian films presented in Seattle.
Other festival highlights include a short film, A Monsoon Date, by groundbreaking transgender Bollywood writer, Gazal Dhaliwal (scheduled to attend), and the screening of The Price of Free, a documentary featuring Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi (scheduled to attend).
The following filmmakers are scheduled to attend the 2019 festival:
Danish Renzu (Director), Suraj Sharma (Actor)
Sumantra Ghosal (Director), Shabana Azmi (Actor)
Aunty Sudha Aunty Radha
Tanuja Chandra (Director)
A Monsoon Date
] Gazal Dhaliwal (Screenwriter), Tanuja Chandra (Director)
The Price of Free
Kailash Satyarthi (Nobel Laureate)
Danish Renzu (Director)
Asavari Kumar (Director)
Jesse Alk (Director)
Vellai Pookal (local film)
Vivek Elangovan (Director), Jerald Peters (Cinematographer)
Lucy and Tenzin (local film)
Khenrab Palden (Director)
The Concurrence (local film)
Esha More (Director)
Anand Patwardhan (Director)
The Sweet Requiem
Ritu Sarin (Director), Tenzing Sonam (Director)
Because We Are Girls
Baljit Sangra (Director)
Kamil Chima (Producer) *Pending
The TSAFF educational programming for the 2019 festival includes the following opportunities. All are free and open to the public; however, PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED.
Workshops for aspiring local filmmakers with mentorship from visiting established industry professionals, presented by Tasveer in collaboration with Northwest Film Forum and visiting filmmakers from Bollywood, Hollywood and The Film School (Seattle).
September 30 @ 5pm
Northwest Film Forum
1515 12th Ave between E Pike St & E Pine St (Seattle)
Deep Dive Into Making Short Films
Tuesday, October 1 @ 5pm
Northwest Film Forum
1515 12th Ave between E Pike St & E Pine St (Seattle)
Symposium focused on the global impact of major online streaming platforms on freedom of expression that has allowed many South Asian storytellers to bypass strict domestic censorship rules. Co-sponsored by UW South Asia Center, UW Seattle and Tasveer.
South Asian Films and the Rise of Nationalism
Friday, October 4 @ 3:30pm
UW Communications Building Simpson Center (2nd Floor)
4109 E Stevens Way NE (Seattle)
Full 2019 TSAFF film lineup
Jhalki (2019), India, Brahmanand S Siingh
Baggage (2019), India, Roopa Rao
Dunkey Following European Dreams (2019), Pakistan, Syed Muhammad Hassan Zaidi (docu)
Gadhvi (2019), India, Gaurav Bakshi
Kattumaran (Catamaran) (2019), India, Swarnavel Eswaran
KD (2019), India, Madhumita Sundararaman
Laal Kabootar (2019), Pakistan, Kamal Khan
Namdev Bhau in Search of Silence (2019), India, Dar Gai
Soundless Dance (2019), France, Pradeepan Raveendran
The Illegal (2019), United States, Danish Renzu
The Last Color (2019), India, Vikas Khanna
The Price is Free (2018), United States, Derek Doneen
The Sweet Requiem (2019), Tibet, Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam
Turtle (2018), India, Dinesh S. Yadav
Vellai Pookal (2019), India/United States, Vivek Elangovan
Aunty Audha Aunty Radha (2019), Tanuja Chandra
Because We Are Girls (2019), Canada, Baljit Sangra
Pariah Dog (2019), United States, Jesse Alk
Coral Woman (2019), India, Priya Thuvassery
Kaifinama (2019), India, Sumantra Ghosal
Reason (2018), India, Anand Patwardhan
What We Left Unfinished (2019), United States, Mariam Ghani
A for Apple (2019), Canada, Sarah Aminuddin
A Monsoon Date (2019), India, Tanuja Chandra
A Sari for Pallavi (2019), United States, Kate Chamuris
Aguan-Sun Behind the Horizon (2019), Bangladesh, Novera Hasan Nikkon, (documentary)
All the Perishes at the Edge of Land (2019), Pakistan, Hira Nabi (documentary)
Babu (2019), Nepal, Eelum Dixit
Before I Go (2019), United States, Dennis Tran
Brunch Wars (2019), United States, Kamran Khan
Closet Supes (2019), United States, Kesav Wable
Cul-De-Sac (2019), United States, Cara Lawson
Daughters of The Polo God (2019), India, Roopa Barua (documentary)
Elephantbird (2019), Afghanistan, Masoud Soheili
Gaash: Light (2019), India, Danish Renzu
Forbidden (2019), United States, Vibha Gulati
Hargun (2019), Canada, Gurleen Kaur
If I Have to Go (2019), India, Gaurav Boruah and Prajnyan Ballav Goswami
Kamali (2019), United Kingdom, Sasha Rainbow (documentary)
Kayantar (Metamorphosis) (2019), India, Rajdeep Paul, Sarmistha Maiti
Living with Snow Leopards: Tashis Story (2018), United States, Gayle Podrabsky (documentary)
Look at the Sky (2019), India, Ashok Veilou
Lucy and Tenzin (2019), United States, Khenrab Palden
Maya (2019), India, Vikas Chandra
Meal (2019), India, Abhiroop Basu
Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh (Do Not Look Back) (2019), India, Mujeer Pasha and Veena Kulkarni
Nooreh (2019), India, Ashish Pandey
Passage (2019), United States, Asavari Kumar
Settled (2019), Pakistan, Marya Javed
Shadow (2019), Pakistan, Fawzia Mirza and Anam Abbas
Shit One Carries (2019), India, Shuchi Kothari
Soch (2019), Canada, Varundeep Singh Chawla
Tattini The Moon is Bright Tonight (2019), Nepal, Abinash Bikram Shah
The Booth (2018), India, Rohin Raveendran
The Concurrence (2019), United States, Esha More
The Death of an Audience (2019), India, Ajit Giri
The Seal (2019), United States, Richa Rudola
The Stitch (2019), India, Asiya Zahor
Tina (2019), United States, Gayatri Bahl
U For Usha (2019), India, Rohan Parashuram Kanawade
Unkept (2019), Canada, Michael P. Vidler
Tasveers mission is to inspire social change through film, arts and storytelling. The festival exemplifies this through curated programming focused on addressing social justice issues such as islamophobia in India, queer and transgender issues, childrens rights by way of Nobel Peace Price winner Kailash Satyarthi, as well as building a community together through lots of Bollywood parties with chai and samosa! https://tsaff.tasveer.org
Courtesy of Tasveer
Brittany Runs a Marathon writer/director Paul Downs Colaizzo on breathing life into his inspirational cinematic debut
by Sara Michelle Fetters -
SGN A&E Writer
BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON
Brittany Runs a Marathon writer/director Paul Downs Colaizzo is as surprised by his debut's success as anyone else might be. 'It's pretty crazy, isn't it?' asks the filmmaker with a giant grin on his face as we sit in a small conference room at a hotel in downtown Seattle. 'This has been a pretty incredible journey. That's very true.'
Winning the prestigious Audience Award at this past January's Sundance Film Festival over some very steep competition which included crowd-pleasing motion pictures like Lulu Wang's The Farewell, Nisha Ganatra's Late Night and Gurinder Chadha's Blinded by the Light, I had the opportunity to sit down with Colaizzo during his Seattle International Film Festival visit towards the end of May. A story inspired by his own roommate's decision to take up jogging and ultimately attempt to run the New York Marathon, the movie revolves around overweight, unmotivated 27-year-old party girl Brittany (Jillian Bell). After being told by a doctor that her unhealthy lifestyle is starting to showcase symptoms of taking a dangerous toll, the young woman is urged by her apartment building's resident artist Catherine (Michaela Watkins) to try and see if she can run a block. Soon one block becomes two and two becomes three, and before Brittany knows it she's jogging every day with an eye on running the New York Marathon.
But as tried and true as that empowering and inspirational plot synopsis sounds, Colaizzo's script isn't anywhere near as melodramatically straightforward as it could have been. The filmmaker refuses to forgive Brittany for any of her more egregiously selfish missteps, and even though his main character is going out of her way to improve her life and find direction where it wasn't there before that doesn't mean she still doesn't make a number of mistakes as she attempts to find the right path to run on. It's masterfully complicated stuff, all of which makes speaking with the filmmaker about his own path in regards to breathing life into his debut feature even more interesting and informative. Here are some edited excerpts from our wide-ranging conversation:
Sara Michelle Fetters: I get being inspired by your roommate's journey and writing this script, but how do you go from being an aspiring filmmaker who's a showrunner on 'MacGyver' to knowing you're the one who should direct and make this your first movie behind the camera?
Paul Downs Colaizzo: I didn't think of it that way. I know how things can get ruined, especially in Hollywood, especially with the wrong person at the helm. I thought this story was too important. It needs to be told correctly, and I wanted it to be told with a delicate touch and the right kind of humor, the right kind of pathos. It needed to pay attention to [Brittany's] inner life. That's what I looked at. I didn't really know what directing was, weirdly. [laughs]
Sara Michelle Fetters: And it's not like you'd written a script before, either.
Paul Downs Colaizzo: But I knew what went into telling a story. I understood craft. I understood character. I understood plot, structure and emotionality. You have to understand all of that when you make a film. I had studied drama at Tisch and I loved working with actors. My favorite thing to do was sneak in and work with actors when we were putting on plays. When it came to this film? It's funny. This is like my marathon, too. Making a movie is like this intimidating thing where you're saying, 'That's a lot. Can I do it?' And the only way to do it is to do it.
So that's what I did. I went in and asked if I could direct and they said 'No.' Initially, I was like, that's fair. I've never directed anything. It kind of made sense. But I was undaunted. I made a little book as a presentation as to what I wanted to do, and I did a bunch of storyboards for the producers to look at. I went back out there and I was like, I know I can do this and this is what I will do. Afterward, they said okay and suddenly I was the director.
Sara Michelle Fetters: That had to be quite the empowering moment.
Paul Downs Colaizzo: It was. No question.
Sara Michele Fetters: What was more empowering? Making this movie? Or watching your friend conquer her personal demons and run that marathon?
Paul Downs Colaizzo: It's weird. A movie doesn't happen in a moment. Brittany's journey didn't happen in a moment. But the New York Marathon? This is a moment. It's like New York is not New York. It's like everyone is just in support mode and everyone is everyone's best friend, and you just sob on the subway because there's so much love and support in the air.
So watching Brittany do that was really moving. I get emotional thinking about it, as is going back and watching the slideshow of my life with Brittany. That is also very emotional and moving, so I don't know that I can parse them apart, especially because Brittany was also adamant I should direct the film. It's all sort of one thing.
Sara Michelle Fetters: When you take a friend's story and turn it into a semi-fictionalized story, how do you balance those things that you know are true but might not necessarily work for a drama, and the stuff that you know from her real life that is really dramatic and would be perfect for the story but might not necessarily be something she wants in there? How do you balance all of that?
Paul Downs Colaizzo: It's a good question. What happened is she went for her first run and I thought, 'This is a movie,' that very day. I outlined the movie without telling her I was doing it, and then one day I said to her I don't know if I should tell you this [but] I'm writing a movie about you and it's called Brittany Runs A Marathon. She immediately asked, 'How fast does she do it [the New York Marathon] in?' I responded that how fast she ran the marathon wasn't the point, and I also followed that up by saying that the character got injured and couldn't run. Two months later Brittany got injured and couldn't run the marathon. Art suddenly imitated life but in the opposite direction.
It was not like I was mining [Brittany's] life necessarily, but the story became clear to me week one when she started running. Running is a sport against yourself, so I needed to tell a story that was about a woman against herself. What was that going to be? We both came from theater. We both went to NYU. We both love just cracking each other up. But I'm also gay and in a lot of ways this is my story, too, because there was a moment in my life where I thought that I didn't want to be the funny sidekick, that I wanted to be the lead in my own life.
There's a moment in this world where you have to sort of say that you understand what role you're expected to play and shout out loud that you're not going to be doing that anymore. Things are going change, and that includes that sad truth that some people are going to have to fall off your radar and some new people are going come on it. You have to be able to say that you deserve this success and these new friends and be confident that this is the truth. I came out at 23. By the time I moved in with Britney I was 26 and I'd just gone through this metamorphosis of who I was becoming and questioning everything in order to find that sense of self-respect and self-agency.
A family member once said to me, 'I'm jealous of the fact that you get to come out.' I asked them why they thought that. 'Because straight people don't get to come out. You get to start over. There's no socially acceptable way for us to do that.'
I was like, coming out isn't all peaches and cream, but I still understood what it was they were trying to say. But I do think there are moments in our lives where we all get to say that we are starting over. I got to watch Brittany go through that journey. But as part of that, when you do reinvent your life for the hopefully the better, you can start to focus on the wrong things. We all can. It happened to me when I came out. You start to value the wrong things about yourself and you start to get vain. You're selfish, but not in a good way. Watching Brittany's story was also kind of like a way of working through my own story at the same time.
Sara Michelle Fetters: I think one the things that makes this film so universal is that, at the end of the day, it is about learning to love yourself for who you are, which is a really tough thing to do for a lot of people.
Paul Downs Colaizzo: Yes. It is. Learning to love yourself for who you are and wanting to keep growing.
Sara Michelle Fetters: That's something I struggle with. I think that's something all of us struggle with. How do you be happy with what is and not let yourself become depressively obsessed with what isn't? How do you do that? That's hard.
Paul Downs Colaizzo: It is. But that is the task. Love now and hope for more.
For the movie, I think it comes down to the characters. You're watching them live their life without saying what's happening. You get a feeling of what's happening but you're not necessarily identifying all of it. By the time we do identify it, you understood that statement to be true. Or, at least, that is the hope.
Sara Michelle Fetters: At what point did Jillian Bell come aboard the project?
Paul Downs Colaizzo: About seven months before we started filming.
Sara Michelle Fetters: What were the conversations like between the two of you after she decided to portray Brittany?
Paul Downs Colaizzo: I didn't know her before she came on. Jillian had gotten hold of the script, and we had a couple of phone calls and then we sat down for coffee. We also had a Skype and it was sort of like, you could just tell she should be Brittany.
From what I knew then was that she was a comedy actress, a comedy actress from a very specific, excellent comedy and she's a standout. But it was a big question mark if she could do something like this. In talking to her I saw that Jillian wanted to almost have her own marathon with this film. She wanted to crack her own shell. She wanted to change how she looked at herself and how the world looked at her. I know it was intimidating. This whole process was intimidating for me so I knew it was intimidating for her. There were a lot of people climbing small mountains making this film.
I'm a playwright. For me it's all about the written word. I love rehearsal. I love sitting around a table and talking about the project. Film people don't give a darn about that stuff. [laughs] We had one rehearsal that was one hour and it was just me and Jillian, and then she had her costume fitting.
Luckily, and I don't know if it was every week or what, but after she was attached, Jillian and I would go over the script whenever we could. She comes from an improv world and I said early on that I wanted to do this word-for-word. She was totally on board with that. Because she related to the character, she related to the character's journey, and so she was then able to bring so much new, unexpected stuff to the table. We wanted to make sure we were telling the most respectful, honest, true, emotional and vulnerable version of the story.
Our work together was very text heavy. There wasn't a lot of doing the scenes. It was a lot of understanding, synthesizing and challenging ourselves to look at our misunderstandings of a character. By the time we go on the set we were on the same page of what story we were telling, and that story is happening inside that girl's heart and inside her soul. So even though we don't have the same language when it comes to acting and scene work (she's from improv, I'm from theater) we had the same language when it came to Brittany. That made it easy.
Sara Michelle Fetters: So, in the end, you two found a way to merge your dueling sensibilities as far as the best way to bring Brittany to life.
Paul Downs Colaizzo: That's what I love about drama. You need to take time to sort of take that character in, and Jillian sitting with the script and understanding it in her heart and her soul was key. By the time she showed up she wasn't thinking about the words. She was just present. She was just in the moment.
Sara Michelle Fetters: And obviously audiences have responded because you just walked out of Sundance with the Audience Award. What does that feel like?
Paul Downs Colaizzo: That was nuts. When we premiered, I didn't know what was going to happen. The only people who had seen the rough cut of the film were my friends, and I just finished that cut for Sundance the Tuesday before we got there, so no one had seen that version. I was sitting in the audience and it started and the house manager was sitting next to me and two minutes in I was like, I think you have to turn the volume up because they're laughing too loud. [laughs] So it went pretty well, and then when the lights went down you could just feel the film had hit a nerve. You see grown men crying.
We did a marketing screening for the film in West Plano, Texas and I was like, what the heck are we doing in West Plano, Texas? The producers wanted to go to the center of the country. They wanted to see how it would play there. I'm telling you, grown cowboys were crying. That was the surprise of the film. I knew women would like the film. I didn't know men would have the emotional response they have had to it.
Sara Michelle Fetters: But that's the point, isn't it? Whether we're gay, straight, male, female, trans, whatever, I think we can all relate to this journey. Watching Brittany in this movie, I could relate to the feeling/being overweight portion. I could relate to the being the sidekick portion. The moment when she gets injured, I have spent the last four years trying to recover from recurrent calf injuries and just when I'm finally back to almost the top of my game, what did I do this year? I reinjured my calf.
Paul Downs Colaizzo: Stop it. That sucks. I can relate. I had double ankle surgery right after we finished filming.
Sara Michelle Fetters: No! I'm sorry that happened.
But, those moments, these obstacles, that's what I think we're talking about here. They are so debilitating. It doesn't matter who you are, we've all had to face moments like these.
Paul Downs Colaizzo: That's right. And it's how you respond. Can you get up? Can you keep going? Those are universal questions.
Sara Michelle Fetters: Speaking of getting up and moving forward, what do you want to do next?
Paul Downs Colaizzo: I don't know. I want to have a weird career. I want to explore characters that we don't normally ask an audience to empathize with in a provocative, entertaining and philosophical way.
Sara Michelle Fetters: So what is it that inspires you, then? What gets you excited when you wake up in the morning?
Paul Downs Colaizzo: Life. Life gets me excited. But I'm sure mental trauma inspires me in some way or another. I'm sure there's some childhood crap that I just can't seem to get over so I'm just doing the rewrites of it hoping to exorcise those demons. [laughs]
Sara Michelle Fetters: And the movie? What do you hope audiences take away after Brittany's story has come to an end? What do you hope they're talking about?
Paul Downs Colaizzo: They need to be talking about what they're going to do tomorrow. That's what I want. I want someone to have an idea of what they're going to do tomorrow that might be different than what it is they have done today, Even if they don't do it, I want people to wonder if they could do something new tomorrow. That would be great.
|Atmospheric Bulrusher is enjoyable, a little long
by Miryam Gordon -
SGN A&E Writer
(AT UW JONES PLAYHOUSE)
Through September 14
Eisa Davis' play, Bulrusher, presented by Intiman Theatre and directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton, is steeped - like black tea - in atmosphere. Infused with music and poetic dialogue, there is a measured pace, enough time to consider things. Set in a northern California townlet, Boonville, everyone there knows everyone else and most of the folks in the small nearby towns as well.
Boonville even has its own language, Boontling, that is a real dialect they all made up together in the 1800s. But you don't really have to 'harp the lingo' to understand what's being said when they use those terms. It's pretty clear what anyone is saying.
The play's main subject area is race and how the town handles it. Boonville, as set in the mid-1950s, apparently was not nearly as segregated as much of the rest of the United States. Black residents did not have to use a back door and could buy things at local establishments. The play's namesake and main character is a mixed race 18-year-old girl who didn't know she was 'black' until she was 5, says Logger (Reginal Andre Jackson), when he told her she was.
Bulrusher (Ayo Tushinde) lives with Schoolch (Charles Leggett) who raised her after she was found in a basket on the river as a baby. Boonville also apparently has no issues with a white, unmarried schoolteacher raising a baby alone, much less a mixed-race baby.
Much of the play takes place around a brothel that both Schoolch and Logger seem to visit on a daily basis in order to spend time with the Madame (Christine Pilar). Both men appear to wish more personal relationships with her while she seems to want to be left alone. Madame does not treat Bulrusher with much respect or kindness, either.
Bulrusher is a character full of 'atmosphere' and magic. She talks to the River and it tells her what the weather will be like up to a week away. She has an ability to touch someone else's 'water' - their drink, their sweat, their saliva - and to then tell aspects of their futures or other personal information. Schoolch made her swear off doing that, though, when others called her a witch and made fun of her. He was protective of her treatment.
There is one young man in town who will talk to Bulrusher. He's named Boy (Adam Fontana), but he's the child of whatever privilege is in town and a popular one with the girls. After years of not caring about her, he's suddenly decided to have her be his girlfriend. But a complication arrives in town: a black teen named Vera (Allyson Lee Brown) whose uncle is Logger. Vera helps Bulrusher learn much, much more about the racism in the rest of the country and how Boonville is quite different.
Tushinde is in almost every scene and pulls the play along with her considerable charm and energy. Other castmates do a fine job, as well. One cast member does have less experience in a key role, but it is clear by the end of the play why the company chose the inclusion. This highlights the difficult balance between serving the intent of the playwright and script versus serving the best interests of the real-time actor and audience experience.
The set, by Jennifer Zeyl, is full of rustic wood that can handle getting actually wet, and is deceptively simple, with a bunch of secret hide-holes that hold props and in one lovely opening, a real 'pond' that the actors can jump into. But some of Curtis-Newton's required fussing with wooden boxes being moved (to little effect) slows the pace of the show.
The twist at the end feels a bit oddly tacked on. The whole play leads to that twist, but once revealed, the playwright immediately lets go of exploring any of its ramifications. In fact, after that it seems like nothing much changes.
At two and a half hours, the play is a bit too lengthy, so bring your patience. It has good intentions, is based on a real town with real history, which might be of interest to some, and highlights an interesting subject area. There is some great music provided by sound designer Matt Starritt that also enhances that atmosphere.
For more information, go to www.intiman.org or call 206-315-5838. Tickets are available at no charge by walk-up prior to each performance.
Discuss your opinions with SGNCritic@gmail.com or go to www.facebook.com/SeattleTheaterWriters. More articles can be found at MiryamsTheaterMusings.blogspot.com.
|Gorily goofy Satanic Panic a magically bloody hoot
by Sara Michelle Fetters -
SGN A&E Writer
One of the best horror-comedies of the year, it's likely most in the film's potential rabid fan base have sadly not heard of director Chelsea Stardust's Satanic Panic, a gorily flighty hoot that tickled my funny bone and sent shivers buzzing up and down my spine with fiercely demonic enthusiasm. Featuring a delightful performance from newcomer Hayley Griffith and a scene-stealing supporting turn from Happy Death Day's cupcake murderess Ruby Modine, the film is nonetheless dominated by a bit of magnetic scenery-chewing villainy courtesy of X-Men and 'Ugly Betty' star Rebecca Romijn. Together, these three women are a trio of energetic magnetism that leaps off the screen, Stardust utilizing them to chat an incantation of blood, guts, friendship and feminism I outright adored.
Pizza delivery driver Samantha 'Sam' Craft (Modine) is having a terrible night. Her first day on the job and she's been sent on all the worst assignments, her tip total so minuscule she hasn't even made enough to fill her scooter's tiny gas tank. But things take a potential turn for the good when Sam lucks into a plum delivery in an upscale neighborhood. But in place of a tip she instead gets singled out for satanic sacrifice, these pizzas heading to a coven of posh witches who need a virgin to complete their latest moonlight ritual. Now Sam is forced to run for her life as she sprints through a nightmarish evening in the homes of the wealthy elite who apparently keep their largess intact by selling their immortal souls to the Devil, her only ally as she fights for survival the disgraced daughter, Judi (Modine), of the coven's leader Danica Ross (Romijn).
Working from a script by Grady Hendrix, which was in turn built from a story he co-wrote with his Mohawk collaborator Ted Geoghegan (We Are Still Here), Stardust infuses the material with a feminist spirit that's unbridled in its gonzo enthusiastic joy as well as in its patriarchal-dismantling ferocity. What could have been a somewhat endearing (if still massively misogynistic) '80s-style low budget horror throwback in her hands instead becomes a raucously endearing, character-driven descent into madness, mayhem and motherly misbehavior that only grows in entertainment value as Sam's nightmarish journey goes on. The film is a total hoot building to a climax of blood-splattered mania that had me chortling in enchanted glee as I also held back a number of genuinely shocked shrieks as the dismembered body count began to slowly rise.
The movie's opening minutes aren't great, an extended cameo from You're Next and I Trapped the Devil star A.J. Bowen massively overstaying its welcome. Also, as exuberantly over the top as the finale might be there's still something about what transpires that left me slightly cold, and whether the fault lies with Hendrix's script, Stardust's direction or potentially some mysterious bout of indigestion brought on thanks to a kernel of rancid popcorn stuck in my front teeth I simply cannot say. Seriously, though, there are a few bumpy bits sprinkled throughout that keep the film from greatness, and unlike August's somewhat thematically similar Ready or Not there's a minor lack of creative consistency that can't help but be more than a little noticeable.
And yet, none of that matters, none of it at all. Griffith is a likably plucky heroine whose awe-shucks demeanor is façade for a can-do attitude that's far more cutthroat and resolute than initially meets the eye. As for Modine, she brings a wearily non-plussed bourgeois attitude to the proceedings that's like something out of a 'Real Housewives' spin-off that would focus on those women's entitled children. Together, the two actresses develop an effortlessly engaging chemistry that augments both of their respective characters in some rather surprising ways. There is real emotional growth taking place that only gets more interestingly complex as the film goes on, and what starts as a wary, untrusting partnership elegantly builds to full-blown selfless friendship by the time things near their end.
But it is Romijn who steals the show, doing so with such vivacious glee it's a wonder she's never been allowed to cut it loose with such carnivorously craven abandon before now. Her matriarchal coven leader is one of the year's best villains, the actress dripping venom with a blasé impunity that's as big an indictment of the self-entitlement of the wealthy 1% towards all of those they see as beneath them (especially the beleaguered working class) as any I've ever seen. Yet Romijn augments her character with a feminine grace that fearlessly flies in the face of a masculine privilege that keeps trying to subjugate it into browbeaten insignificance, Danica refusing to bow down it, safely secure in her knowledge that's she's unquestionably the smartest person in whatever room she might be standing in.
Stardust's liberal use of gore is almost to be expected considering this is a Fangoria production. At the same time, most of the nastiest bits of guts and viscera are surprisingly important to the overall narrative, and much like Mission: Impossible - Fallout or any of the first three Jason Bourne films that used action to further their stories and their characters, the director does the same here with her ingenious utilization of these sickening practical effects. Her film is also expertly shot by cinematographer Mark Evans, while costume designer Rachel Wilson's rapturous modern-day ensembles are nothing short of perfect. All of this and more helps make Satanic Panic the giddily enjoyable sensation it ultimately proves to be, Stardust and her ragtag team of actors and creative artists weaving a magically bloody spell that has me seeing red in unvarnished happiness.
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Atmospheric Bulrusher is enjoyable, a little long