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Always Shine
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Always Shine More at IMDbPro »

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13 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

I didn't want it to end...

7/10
Author: wildsparrow16 from United States
2 December 2016

This movie is about two young, struggling actresses whose friendship is dying and they know it, so they plan a girls retreat in a remote cabin in Big Sur. One is beautiful, in a committed relationship, gets admiration where she goes, and has had some steady gigs. She is kind and gentle - much like the character "Chloe" that she plays on the show Rectify. The other is the better actress yet can't get cast, she is alone, has average looks and is very mentally unstable - we see this in the first few scenes and it builds from there. Gee, what could possibly go wrong on this trip? If Single White Female and In Her Skin had a love-child, it would be this movie - on steroids. But make no mistake - this is no chick flick. There is plenty of psychological suspense to go around. This is all accomplished with no gore, no blood. The ending could be improved upon, but at least it won't leave you in the dust. I strongly recommend this movie if you are into psychological thrillers.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

"Always Shine" takes us to Dark Places of A Woman's Soul.

6/10
Author: jtncsmistad
27 November 2016

With "Always Shine" Director Sophia Takal has fashioned a subtle/not so much so really treatise on the too frequently vicious dynamic among women consumed by envy-infested competition. While this twisted story of two young actresses plays out in progressively amped-up stages, the soft impact denouement leaves one with the feeling of "So what the hell IS the thrust?" Mackenzie Davis (building on her impressive turn in 2015's quiet gem "A Country Called Home") is Anna and Caitlin Fitzgerald (Showtime's "Masters of Sex"), Beth, whose friendship is frayed as the latter's career has progressed more successfully than has her gal-pal's. Beth is a demure, submissive wall flower. Her non-threatening demeanor stands in stark contrast to that of Anna, who is a full-force in your face boss bitch. In an effort to repair and recoup, the pair head out of L.A. for a weekend together at a spacious family cabin in Big Sur. May the fireworks begin. And, boy, do they ever.

Practically right from the get-go there is a palpable undercurrent of barely repressed tension between the two girls. Takal creates and sustains a venomous vibe here, ratcheting it up by means of rapid fire subliminal suggestion editing from Zach Clark and a consistently discomforting music under bed supplied by Michael Montes, all coming together with wicked ferocity to inject intensely ominous pulsations of alarming foreshadowing.

Lawrence Michael Levine (Takal's husband who also appears in the film) has composed a story heavy in it's apparent message that the fairer of the sex's is painfully complicit in consistently falling victim to the predatory machinations of men, particularly in the conform or be cast out world of Hollywood. And to this end, you will no doubt note that Takal teasingly, and quite purposefully, tantalizes her audience with, yet never completely gives in for even a split second to, gratuitous nudity involving her comely co-stars. (No, sir. Not in THIS chick's flick, buster.) Levine takes the driving theme to expressly existential places, such as in a scene where the anger-afflicted Anna aggressively challenges a guy who is participating in a "Men's Retreat", asking him if a similar event comprised of women would meet with a comparative degree of acceptance and embracement. The writer's point is certainly a potent one, if not overplayed across all manner of societal discourse, both public and private. The premise of the female gender as historically and unconscionably under appreciated, minimized and even nullified stands firmly on it's own, and demands no call for validation from me nor anyone else. However, the "solution" to the issue as proposed in Levine's script is as demoralizing as it is simplistic. Not to the alarming degree of severity we come to realize in "Always Shine", obviously. But in essence, and from a euphemistic perspective, is this, then, the ONLY way matters can ever truly be settled? Don't we, most of us of reasonably pragmatic sensibility leastways, believe that women as a community of spirit and souls are far better, and one whole helluva lot STRONGER, than that? Lord, let's hope so.

I was looking for, and fully expecting, a more jarring conclusion than Takal opts to give us in the final moments of "Always Shine". Still, such as it is, these lyrics from the Talking Heads satirical classic rocker "Once in a Lifetime" initially sprung to mind for me: "My GOD!! What have I DONE??!!" But then, as the screen cut abruptly to black and the credits rolled, a very different, perhaps even more troubling, interpretation occurred to me: Is it all merely, and in faithful accord with the overarching nature of the narrative, "just an act"?

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Cat gut

9/10
Author: bob_meg from United States
6 December 2016

If you see Always Shine for any reason, see it for its two lead performances. Mackenzie Davis and Caitlin Fitzgerald appear to be on verge of spontaneous combustion --- at each other but mostly at themselves --- for the hour-and-a-half run time of Sophia Takal's sophomore feature (penned by her fiancé Lawrence Michael Levine).

Always Shine is one of the most compellingly shot and edited indie features I've seen recently, using jump-cuts and flash-forwards in consistent intriguing ways. It opens with Beth (Fitzgerald) reciting a "please don't hurt me" slasher-film script into the lens for an audition and immediately follows with Anna (Davis) giving a polar-opposite speech that is more, well... unrehearsed. It's a clever set-up and tells you everything you need to know about these two young women in about eight minutes: Both are actresses. Beth is confident with her looks and charm, but not much else, and Anna is so insecure that every twitch Davis delivers is almost too painful to study for long.

Both are grappling for a tow-hold on the Hollywood feature film success ladder but only Beth has achieved a moderate level of success even though it's obvious Anna is the more talented of the two. It's a shame they can't be one person --- they'd be perfect. And that's where Always Shine gets really interesting as the two head off for a weekend of "healing" at Anna's aunts house in (gorgeous as always) Big Sur.

Watching Davis and Fitzgerald come *just shy* of ripping each other to shreds --- with paper cuts not razor blades is far more interesting than watching most actresses pull hair and scream. A fierce layer of male complicity runs underneath each woman's self-loathing and that's a nice touch, carefully derailing the "crazy chicks" cliché the film could have collapsed into under less skillful hands.

Audiences looking for an easy-out are going to be a bit put off by the last third of the film, which doesn't chart any new territory plot-wise and can be confusing for the more literal-minded, yet it strangely works for the most part. Ultimately, Takal seems to be saying that the image in the mirror is only going to be as ugly as you make it and subsequently even harder to ignore. Always Shine is many things, but slight and superficial it's not.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Very well-done

Author: Red_Identity from United States
30 December 2016

I didn't really expect much from this but the poster certainly intrigued me. It reminded me a lot of the classic two-female psychodramas, most recently of Queen of Earth, and yet it also managed to bring something new to the table. It feels like a B-flick at its core but the filmmaking is very impressive and very intentional. The film also has a lot of interesting themes on its mind regarding the role of women in the film business and in society as well, and it will surely hit close to home for many. The two lead actresses are really good in their roles, particularly Mackenzie Davis who has the meatier role and who is able to knock it out of the park. I highly recommend this.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

The idea is cool but the attempt falls just short.

6/10
Author: sonnybillhammond from Australia
8 December 2016

Our two characters, Anna and Beth, are both actresses. Bashful Beth is a rising success, while bold Anna's career is struggling to take off. The two decide to take a weekend away to rekindle a neglected friendship. However the trip seems burden by an overbearing sense of tension, that slowly builds between the two over their stay, leading to an unexpected yet unavoidable confrontation.

The film is intriguing enough to hold interest until the end, mainly because of the two main characters and the actresses portraying them. The film is at it's best when centered on the two and their interactions. When the plot takes over with it's evasiveness and phantasmagoria, it seems to use the excuse of self awareness as an answer to your questions. An interesting watch nonetheless with a commentary that touches on sexism and type casting.

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Thought-provoking

7/10
Author: Jennifer Lúthien from Australia
20 January 2017

When I started watching this film, I'll admit, I expected the Hollywood over-sexualized b-movie about girls in underwear and steamy showers... It was, as they say, "a breath of fresh air" to be able to watch a female-led film without having to cringe and sigh at over-sexualized interactions, and pointless nudity. This is a film with a focus on it's story! I'll be damned! Then, I turned to the internet to find out what the ending was supposed to mean (and you might too), and as it turns out, my (as mentioned) relief WAS the point- in a sense.

I have watched a questionable amount of films in my lifetime (more so than my peers), however, I don't consider myself to be a film enthusiast. I do feel this film might need to be watched at least a couple times before you're able to make sense of some scenes, and thus believe this film will be more appreciated by film enthusiasts, but nonetheless would recommend watching. The themes of the film are refreshing, and I feel lucky to have lived in a time when a filmmaker could tell a story for what it is, and without the distractions (glamour, nudity, gore) needed to keep an audience's attention.

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Really great acting

8/10
Author: dsaju9
27 December 2016

The main thing which struck me about the movie is the brilliant acting by the 2 girls. Its a very good movie about how dynamics of friendship change in face of competition and jealousy. It also makes one think about what makes people likable. This is such a fragile subject and deals with core of human emotions and dynamics of relationship. The movie was quite engaging even though it is simply about 2 characters on vacation. The viewer is attracted to learn more and more about them which makes it good watch. The girls come out as really charming and I was stunned by the acting skills. Its really awesome to watch them play out those emotions.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Rivalry with a twist

6/10
Author: ReganRebecca from Canada
2 January 2017

I didn't love Always Shine, but I did admire the film's chutzpah. It takes a lot of clichéd elements like the rivalry between women, especially actresses, but puts a new spin on them.

The film is about two best friends, Beth (Caitlin FitzGerald) and Anna (Mackenzie Davis). Both are actresses but Beth is experiencing a sudden surge in her career as she begins to land dumb parts in big budget successful horror movies. Anna meanwhile is the more talented of the two, but can't get a decent agent or good work. Her strong personality is also perceived as abrasive while Beth's doormat behaviour is perceived as being extremely attractive. The women head up to a cabin for a vacation but tension about their careers is high and neither can find it within themselves to be kind, graceful or supportive of the other. As tensions flare they finally learn what they really think of one another.

The acting on this is great and I did enjoy the twist. It's a bit of a psychological horror film, so while the gore isn't there, it's still pretty dynamic and a little scary.

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