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This is easily the most unsettling, transporting, and densely-packed art pieces I've ever seen this year. It's one of those rare movies where it takes multiple themes - about artistic integrity, exploiting pain for profit, mental illness, family stability, overcoming the struggles of being a female, and mother-and-daughter dynamics - and blends them into one ambiguous, anarchic whole. It's one of those movie where it makes the case not whether or not you get it, but whether we trust our subjectivity to make us care nonetheless.
The movie is centered around Madeline, a young teenager diagnosed with a mental illness that triggers her to commit multiple episodes at almost everyone she sees, one of which is her single mother played by a wonderful Miranda July. She feels trapped and frustrated with her domestic life so she attends a theatre class, where she's allowed to lash out and act as outlandish as she wants, instantly fostering a niche of channeling her disability for what should or should not be considered as "talent". Along the way, because it still is a coming of age movie, we see her come of age as she questions her sexuality, the weight of how her actions affect those around her, and her place in the world going forward.
Josephine Decker, a indie curiosity that for sure gained my attention, frames the movie in her perspective, regulating the camera firmly locked onto our heroine, tuning the music as pandemonium of the senses, and often cutting randomly through multiple shots and images. It's a fascinating example of modern abstract cinema, one that delves into the characters potential insanity yet trusts that we empathize with a broken soul in need to express herself.
The movie also commentates on how we package and sell someones emotional pain and call it art. Thankfully, the movie is so free-wheeling that it never bothers to become too didactic or preachy. In one of the films best moments, Madeline reenacts an argument she had with her mom that not only might be the most harrowing cases of self-revelation but one of the most honest and achingly tangible view of her life. It's then followed by the theatre director stunned by the performance, but wishes to adapt the performance in her vision in well-intentioned but wrongheaded means. And THATS followed by a anxiety-driven performance act that further highlights the main point of what art is supposed to be.
Art, like MADELINE'S MADELINE, isn't meant to be deciphered or filtered through a simpler perspective, but interpreted as what it is by many other perspectives. We live and breathe and experience in our own way, and analyzing art through our own lens crafts something truly special. We feel the artists happiness, pain, and self-expression in some way or another and we don't need someone spelling it out for us.
MADELINE'S MADELINE is a wonderful film to behold. It's no doubt what I'm saying is a cliche, but this is one of those film that makes me point my finger and shout "This! This is why I love film". An achievement in bold filmmaking as well as a magnifying showcase for newcoming actress Helena Howard (I mean all I gotta say is Elsie Fisher should eat her heart out) it's one of those movies jam packed with interpretations and emotional rapture that I'll never forget it for quite a long time.
One of the best of the year. Believe the hype.
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