The 2018 Los Angeles Film Festival covered a variety of rom-coms that embraced diversity and a slew of sci-fi and horror films that stretched the imaginations of the genre. The Wrong Todd is the standout, with its low-budget sci-fi examination of grief.
Read below for some brief thoughts on a few of the standouts. Be sure to check out the full reviews for The Wrong Todd and Hulu’s Into the Dark.
You don’t have to be a fan of Shakespeare to enjoy Ghost Light, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt. The film adopts the curse of Macbeth, a superstition among theater actors that once the name of the Scottish King is spoken aloud out of context of the play itself, bad luck will follow. For a small Shakespearean acting troupe, the curse comes to life when one of their fellow actors says the name in bitterness, angry at being the understudy.
First and foremost a comedy, Ghost Light masters the balancing act of mixing humor with horror. Befitting the autumn season we find ourselves in, we find our characters set against a run down theater in the grassy fields of Massachusetts, surrounded by trees sporting red and orange. If you’re looking for a film to get you in the Halloween spirit, look no further. The film looks great, bringing the stage to life for the screen effortlessly. The performances are enjoyable, particularly Carey Elwes as the terrible lead actor of Macbeth.
The effects may not be up to par with today’s horror films, and the superstitions a little over the top, but Ghost Light manages to be a fun and genuine celebration of Shakespeare without being Shakespeare.
Female friendship drives Banana Split, which is so rarely seen in rom-coms that focus on male-female romantic relationships. After a bad breakup with Nick (Dylan Sprouse), April (Hannah Marks, also co-writer) befriends new-girl-in-town Clara (Liana Liberato), but there’s a problem: Clara is Nick’s new girlfriend. What’s great about Banana Split though is that it doesn’t treat April and Clara’s friendship like a problem. Sure, they avoid the topic of Nick and don’t tell him about their friendship but inevitably, they fight about it.It’s never strictly about who gets him,instead, the film portrays the complexity of friendships and relationships, giving each one equal importance. There’s time and depth given to Nick and his friend Ben (Luke Spencer Roberts), who’s stuck in the middle of the drama.
It’s a solid start for Marks, though her directorial debut comes with this year’s After Everything, out October 12. The film caters to high school dynamics, but ultimately it’s about what it takes to work through the rough patches in all relationships.
The best thing about Simple Wedding is that it features a bisexual male character and hardly any discussion is made about it. Considering this article from Vox about bisexual representation on television, it was refreshing to see an example of male bisexuality treated so openly.
The other best thing about Simple Wedding is Tara Grammy who plays Nousha Husseini, an Iranian-American caught between culture and love when she meets Alex (Christopher O’Shea), a bisexual artist that doesn’t exactly fit with the Iranian men her mother Ziba (Shohreh Aghdashloo) sets her up with. Grammy mixes vulnerability with comedy to bring a complex female character to life. Her relationship with Alex is sweet and the chemistry with O’Shea wonderful. However, the film doesn’t go too far beyond its initial message. Nousha worries about her parents accepting Alex since he’s non-traditional compared to who they usually pick for her but surprisingly (refreshingly) they’re cool with it. While the acceptance of Alex goes a long way in representation of LGBTQ people, the drama of the story is a bit lost when it’s not explored beyond a few remarks. Events speed by as if the narrative has been turned into a flipbook. The wedding, which wasn’t ever supposed to be simple, comes and goes, while the characters barely have time to meditate on anything.
Simple Wedding is cute but it needed to be more than that.