Madeline's Madeline (2018) Poster

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Portrait of emotionally disturbed teenager egged on by Improvisational acting class instructor proves pretentious and unfocused
Turfseer9 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
If you're into indie "art" pictures, then maybe Madeline's Madeline is for you. It's one of those Sundance creations that actually garnered a very respectable critics' rating of 76 on Metacritic. For someone like me who usually likes solid historical fare, "Madeline" simply features material in which I have little to no interest.

It's a bit difficult to describe. In a nutshell, the protagonist (I'm sure you can come close to guessing this) is a 16 year old named Madeline who has emotional problems. One might surmise that she is bipolar but I'm not exactly sure of the diagnosis. She is played by newcomer Helena Howard. I had assumed that Howard was actually playing herself until I saw an interview promoting the picture on Youtube. Indeed her Madeline is strictly fictional so I suppose you can say she does a pretty good job in depicting someone who's emotionally disturbed. Nonetheless, Josephine Decker, the writer and director ensures that Madeline is an insufferable one-note character.

What the plot boils down to is this: Madeline is in constant conflict with her mother Regina (Miranda July) who has placed her in an improvisational acting class run by Evangeline (Molly Parker), who sort of becomes obsessed with the teenager and encourages her to "act out"; as a result, the acting piece she's been developing is scrapped for a new one starring Madeline, illustrating her life and relationships.

The other students in the class become resentful, including Madeline, who gets back at Evangeline by attempting to seduce her husband at a party she throws at the teacher's apartment. Evangeline's obsession with Madeline is illustrated to the extreme when their images merge, both fantasizing about burning Regina's face with a hot iron.

Is supposed it to be a character study about a pretentious, authoritarian instructor who is so narcissistic that she is unable to see that she's not helping her emotionally disturbed charge at all and possibly making her worse? Simi Horwitz, writing in the Film Journal International, asks, "Nobody asks-even thinks to ask-Evangeline what she's talking about (or what purpose it serves) when she instructs her students to 'act out metaphors' as they shape-shift into sea turtles or cats. 'Don't be a cat,' she prods Madeline. 'Be in the cat.'

Madeline's Madeline culminates in a bizarre street dance by the class which I am still trying to figure out what exactly is the point of the film's climax. Again, if you like weird indie "art films," this could be for you. A mainstream audience (as well as the more critical, including myself) will find little of interest here.
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One-Line Review: Madeline's Madeline (3 Stars)
TejasNair8 November 2018
It is easier to bear, and perhaps even cure, the passive-aggressiveness of two of the central characters (induced by mental illness and its exploitation) in Joesphine Decker's drama Madeline's Madeline than it is to complete watching it. Gosh, the exasperating background score made of vocal percussion just forces me to use another line here. TN.
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goonta26 January 2019
Have you ever looked at an abstract piece of art and strained to understand what the point of it was? I feel like I just suffered through some bazaar required viewing for a college art class. I stuck it out because I love thrillers (exactly how this movie qualifies a part of that genre is a mystery) and because of all the stellar reviews, but I did not have any answers by the film's end. Most importantly, I was not entertained or uplifted which are the only two reasons I watch cinema. Perhaps I'm just too shallow to understand what just happened or what the point to any of it was, but I'm typically able to appreciate 'artsy' stuff so it's more than that. No, I believe one must actually be mentally ill himself to appreciate this 'art', and it actually left me feeling as though perhaps I was cracking. The acting was superb, I think. I. Just. Didn't. Understand. It. At. All.
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Pretty good
frasay21 July 2018
I disagree with the 1 Star review who says this movie has no reason to exist. Everyone is different right? I'd say mental illness is one of the more worthy themes to explore in a film. It's really well edited and shot. It's got some laughs. It's a bit erratic and dark and anxious, like the main character. The music and sound design is great. I'd say the 3 principal characters (Madeleine, her mum, the director) all give performances worthy of an Oscar nom. Yep, it's got an experimental vibe, it's kinda weird, but it's not eraserhead weird. Enjoy.
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A Unique Perspective
Gresh8543 September 2018
If Helena Howard-who plays the main character, Madeline-doesn't get nominated for an academy award, we boycott. She by far gives the most visceral performance of the year right next to Hereditary's Toni Collette's. She is seriously someone to look forward to in the near future of cinema. She's a hidden talent that's career just got its blossoming. You feel psychotic throughout this. You really do. You feel as if you are in the head of this mentally ill character Madeline, and you begin to come to terms with her in-visionary perspective behind her life, and the beauty but also the terror within it. I've never seen a film approach such a fascinating charactorial perspective. Film enthusiasts should be encouraged to study such a unparalleled take on "point of view." Of course, the filmmaking is exquisite in its own unusual design. It's dreamy, dozey, and surreal, and I adored it. Like a natural high. If you want me to mention any flaws, I guess the pacing is a bit droog (it's kind of a b at times). It's hard to stay focused all the time since the story-I don't want to say doesn't go anywhere-takes a while before its resolutions are presented. Besides this (and maybe some nitpicks with the finale that I won't get into it) this doesn't contradict how mesmeric the experience was. It's hard to rate this one, since I'm a bit conflicted with what I have watched-there's really nothing like it; it's undoubtably the most experimental film of the year-but in terms of the filmmaking power and the overall core themes/matter that had me in this film's grasp, I feel somewhat comfortable giving these aspects of Madeline's Madeline: (Verdict: A-)
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Most Bizarre and Intentionally Confusing Movie I've ever Seen
Jared_Andrews28 June 2018
'Madeline's Madeline' is one of the most bizarre and incomprehensible films I've ever seen.

It's about mental illness, I think. It's probably not a good sign when someone cannot tell you with any certainty what a movie is about after watching it.

What I can tell you is the plot mainly revolves around a mentally ill girl named Madeline. She's a young actress who lands a role in a play run by an experimental director who teaches wildly immersive acting methods. The director forces the actors in the play to spend half their time, not pretending to be animals like sea turtles, but "becoming" animals like sea turtles.


As you can imagine, these methods are not helping Madeline's mental illness. The methods aren't helping anyone, really.

Since the story is told through the lens of a person with a mental illness, its grasp of reality is erratic and unclear. Actually, it's not at all times even clear who is telling the story. Perhaps it incorporates multiple perspectives, or perhaps we witness the out-of-body experiences of the protagonist. Again, it's unclear.

It often seems as if the filmmakers made this movie confusing on purpose. It's intentionally inaccessible, and that's supposed to be part of the experience of mental illness, I guess? But that's a terrible approach to making a movie. Eventually the audience must be keyed in on what is happening, otherwise what is the point? If nothing is ever made clear, the film is just piling nonsense on top of more nonsense.

What's most frustrating is that the filmmakers seem to believe all this nonsense is high-end art. It's the epitome of pretentious film making.

The film's acting is awful, though I cannot entirely blame the performers. It appears that they were fed absurd direction and dialogue that would make anyone look like a laughable exaggeration of a real actor.

Overall, this movie is a disaster. It has no reason to exist, and you have no reason to watch it.
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gretchgraphics15 January 2019
A challenging film. As a child of the seventies this movie resonated with me. My childhood was ordinary for the times (the 1970s), but would be considered child abuse in the 21st century. Still, I don't agree with this "western societal viewpoint."

Madeline is all of us. When we are born, we immediately experience life in purely sensory terms. It's BRIGHT out there. It's LOUD. It's COLD. It STINKS of alcohol and other antiseptics. Anxious energy suddenly fills the room. How do we respond? We cry and scream and squirm and kick. We resist being pulled out of our warm home. We close our eyes to the unfamiliar.

It is only through the rigid and repetitive teachings of our "tribe" that we acquire language, manners, morals, ethics. Madeline's Madeline shows us how we might more effectively communicate, if only we could get the rest of the human race on board.

This movie is difficult. Discordant, dissonant. Musically and rhythmically atonal. At times it is an assault on the senses. But it is also a luminous visual portrait of a supremely talented young woman. I want to be her.
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Not for everyone
dkcooper30 November 2018
I failed to get onside with this experimental style which too often focused away from the plot's most intriguing moments
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Arthouse filmmaking at its most perplexing and rewarding
DJKwa27 July 2018
//Revelation Film Festival Review//

Arthouse films are often labelled with different adjectives that can split audiences. What some might label as pretentious, others might consider as a masterpiece. Madeleine's Madeleine oscillates between both sentiments but through its sheer force of its own conviction proves to be a startling achievement.

The story follows Madeleine (an excellent debut from Helena Howard), a young performer recovering from a recent mental breakdown. As her personal life starts taking on a central role in a play she is rehearsing, Madeleine's grip on reality becomes increasingly tenuous. The lingering question is: is it art imitating reality or the other way around? Madeleine's Madeleine is an unconventional take on mental illness, but what part of mental illness is conventional?
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You would have to pay me to watch the whole thing
allie70127 January 2019
The movie critic of The New Yorker said it was head and shoulders the best new movie out there so I gave it a shot. I knew from the first minute it was a piece of pretentious twaddle. I am trying to watch but it is so reminiscent of a student production and not a very good one that I am giving up after 15 minutes. I feel like the little boy in The fairytale The Emperor's New Clothes who can see what the rest of society can't, that they have all been duped.
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How to make this movie yourself !!!
ealesnj14 January 2019
Take a bad version black swan or Jacobs ladder + mix some Melinda and Melinda (from Woddy Allen) + turn up the fake artsy fartsy factor by 10 + include some pointless shots + weird camera angle + slow the pace by half. Congrats !!!! you got yourself the most senseless movie of this 2019.

0/5 star
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Waste of time to watch
dizzied27 August 2018
I love independent films and I have seen many over the years. Although a fan of Molly Parker and some of her previous work, this is quite possibly one of the worst movies I have ever seen. Though I love independent films and understand that an element of beauty in independent films is that it is experimental, This movie had no point and the climactic ending was pointless. Although there was one scene in which Helena Howard's character Madeline had a great scene in which she "broke-down," the rest of the movie was garbage. I refuse to be an independent film fan who praises a film because it is classified as an independent film. Thankfully I had MoviePass and didn't waste any actual $$$ on this movie. Otherwise I would've demanded my money back. At Laemmle's there were about 20 of us in the theatre and almost half left within the first hour. By the end of the movie, it was just me and 3 other people. We all agreed that the movie was pointless, but we had no other plans for the afternoon so decided to stay in the air conditioned theatre. Don't bother watching this movie in the theatre. If this site allowed me to vote 0 I would. Can't believe Rotten tomatoes has given this 88%. Shows how out of touch they are.
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bo-q1 September 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Perfect demonstration of dissociation through camerawork and sound design and terrific performances. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie.

I especially loved how the film was not about a mentally ill person facing a catastrophic event, but instead a mentally ill person facing common teenage stressors. This brought the film an authenticity that most films about mental illness seem to lack.

July and Parker were exquisite. Howard's performance was also very good, but she had a lot to chew. An excellent debut, and I'm excited to see more from her.

The climax wasn't the most bone-chilling thing I've seen in the theaters this year, but it was still a fun and intriguing end to a movie. Everything fell into place and ended in the way it should. Very satisfying.

Lastly, I'd like to give some credit to the trailer's creators. I'm a firm believer that there has never really been a good trailer in the history of film, and Madeline's Madeline comes pretty close to disproving that. Going into the theater, I really didn't know what this movie was about. It was so refreshing to be excited for something and still surprised by it when it came out. I hope that whoever made this trailer makes many, many more.
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Semi-experimental improv for adventurous viewers; Howard is a find
gortx23 August 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Interesting semi-experimental movie which tries to take us inside the mind of a young teen who is going through psychological issues. Madeline (Helena Howard) is the young woman. She is taking an improvisational acting class taught by Evangeline (Molly Parker). The play they are preparing incorporates Madeline's life as an inspiration including the challenging relationship she has with her mother Regina (Miranda July).

That synopsis takes a full half of the movie to come into focus. Rather than follow that story, Director Josephine Decker plunges the viewer into Madeline's emotions from her POV. Distorted camera angles, discordant sounds, snatches of music and jagged cutting are all used to make her internal thoughts manifest on screen. It's a daring technique and it will certainly turn off viewers expecting a more traditional approach. For much of the movie, it works as a experiential enterprise. When the movie tries to be more concrete it falters a bit. One wishes Decker followed her muse all the way, rather than try so hard to add a standard narrative. Equating mental illness with an acting class is a bit disquieting, although Decker does a nice job exploring the duality of Madeline's mom and her teacher.

The acting here is solid. Howard is a genuine talent and keeps the movie engrossing even when it stumbles. Decker worked out the material along with a real theatrical troupe (it's called "immersive", rather than improv) and it certainly adds a layer of verisimilitude to the enterprise. MADELINE'S MADELINE is certainly a niche project, but, adventurous viewers should seek it out.
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Holy moly this is some gurlesque genius
ajspring-367-9511442 September 2018
The shifting relationships between intimacy, need and power in both interpersonal and socio-political structural relationships are wisely staged in this movie. Not unlike a feminine multiracial reinterpretation of Sartre's Nausea, the "grossness of closeness" coexists in the same home as dazzling creativity. Retrobution and tenderness mutate to form constant relational negotiation - this movie may be called surreal, but it feels mighty real.
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Fascinating story of mental illness and exploitation
russellagriffith@aol.com26 August 2018
This film demands work from the viewer but ultimately pays off with a haunting portrait of a teenager's mental illness being exploited by a local theater director. It's often confusing but everything comes together to make this a successful art film. The three lead females performers are all superb.
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Mental Illness
evanston_dad5 February 2019
Movies about mental illness are a dime a dozen, and it's hard to find one that has a take on the subject that hasn't already been done, but "Madeline's Madeline" comes pretty close. It's a very experimental film in some ways and one that will likely frustrate some viewers. I will admit to finding my patience tested at times, but overall I will say that the movie rewards sticking with it until its ambiguous end.

Madeline is a young woman whose acting talent either encourages her illness or gives her an outlet for it, depending on your perspective. Certainly her mom, played by Miranda July, is suspect of Madeline's troupe of acting friends and especially her acting teacher, but whether this suspicion arises from a mother's natural instinct for managing her daughter's fragile mental state or the threat that her control over her daughter might be jeopardized is not made entirely clear. Perhaps it's a bit of both? Certainly she has some reason to be concerned, because Madeline's teacher has no qualms about exploiting her illness for what it brings to the vague theater project she's working on. I've always only half-jokingly believed that the very best artists the world has produced are always a little bit crazy, and "Madeline's Madeline" seems to suggest that the fine line between sanity and artistic brilliance is a fuzzy one.

The chaotic film making, with its abrupt cuts, jumpy camera, and disorienting whirls and spins can be read as a visual representation of Madeline's disassociated mental state, but I wished the director would have calmed down a bit.

Grade: B
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intercriacao16 April 2019
Uma idiotice que quer ser cabeça. Chato pacaraleo.
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felipexmc18 March 2019
Think of the worst piece of crap you have ever take it down a notch. If I saw this in the movies I'd ask for my money back.
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A unique perspective on mental illness and mother/daughter relationships
donnellymatt31 July 2018
I definitely did not find this to be one of the most bizarre and incomprehensible films I've ever seen. It just happens to be coming from a unique perspective and requires a bit of focus.

All three lead performances are incredible, I agree with a previous comment that they're all Oscar worthy. Certainly, Helena Howard is a force and in my book gives one of the best performances I've seen this year. She has an incredibly bright future ahead of her and I look forward to seeing more of her.

I just love the way Josephine Decker's mind works. I've enjoyed her previous films and they seem to just get better with each release. Cinematography, pacing, narrative, performances, sound design; all of the elements here are intricate and purposeful and captured with precision.

I can understand someone not enjoying the film because it is not a straight forward drama, it's brimming with anxiety and confusion and youthful naiveté (all of which are there for good reason) and does require a certain level of dedication as a viewer, but if you can give it a chance and take the time to digest the emotional roller coaster that is Madelin'e mind I think you'll be happy you did.
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Coming of Age?
westsideschl21 January 2019
Is there a fine line between creative genius and mental/emotional issues? Our teen actress shows a range of rapidly changing emotions - good acting or pathology? If this script was a "coming of age" then most of the world's young teens growing up having to work to either contribute to their families or are barely surviving would only laugh at our portrayal of a teen's angst as spoiled immaturity & self centeredness. Alternatively I had considered some form of mental illness as an out, but when seeing similar behaviors coming out of her mom and her stage director that out didn't hold water. When the stage costuming dept. came up w/pig's heads (Why pig's?) I thought we were heading for a horror flick - no such luck.
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difficult to process, but often greatly rewarding and amazingly made
framptonhollis17 December 2018
During the first few minutes of this film, I found myself ready to be disappointed, thinking it was going to essentially be "Theatre Kids: The Movie", which it really isn't. About ten minutes in, I got more used to the film and started to kind of see what parts of it were going for and it became a much more enjoyable experience. Throughout my time watching this movie, there was both very much and very little for me to say. 'Madeline's Madeline' is a very challenging film on multiple levels, and I'm not exactly sure how I feel about it. My time watching it was certainly mostly positive, but whether or not it achieves true greatness is totally lost on me. It is especially difficult for me to pinpoint my exact feelings on the film's ending, which may or may not be both lacking and overflowing with ambiguity.

However, there are a few things about this film that are for certain. For starters, it is (in my opinion delightfully) weird, oozing with absurd humour, surrealistic imagery, and an ever increasingly uncomfortable atmosphere. The editing and camerawork go hand in hand to make this a visually fascinating and impressive work. The psychological depths explored in the film are perfectly portrayed thanks to director Josephine Decker's incredible vision and talent for realizing said vision. Equally impressive is the acting. Miranda July is surprisingly intimidating and unsurprisingly awkward and Molly Parker is able to juggle likability with a strange undercurrent of suspicion on the part of the viewer extremely well. However, the real highlight of the film's performances comes from Madeline herself, played by newcomer Helena Howard. If the visionary visuals, editing, and score aren't enough to convince you to watch this film, her performance should. There is a particular sequence towards the end that was legitimately breathtaking due to her emotive and powerful performance. In many ways, it is an extremely pronounced performance, and in many other ways it is extremely subtle. To see such a young actor display so much incredible talent makes me excited to see her future career, and makes this film all the better.
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I really enjoyed it's bizarreness, and it's sensitive depiction of mental illness.
Hellmant11 September 2018
'MADELINE'S MADELINE': Three and a Half Stars (Out of Five)

An experimental indie drama about a teenage girl with severe mental issues, who begins bringing her personal drama into her theater performance. It was directed and co-written by Josephine Decker, and it stars newcomer Helena Howard. The film also costars Molly Parker and Miranda July, and it's gotten mostly positive reviews from critics. I really enjoyed it's bizarreness, and it's sensitive depiction of mental illness, but it's also really slow-paced and somewhat hard to follow (because it's so strange). The performances are all more than decent though, and the directing is more than adequate as well.
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My Metaphor
gudpaljoey-482173 July 2019
It seems like the makers of this picture have discovered the word 'metaphor.' Last time I looked a metaphor need an object, which is elusive in this movie. I think the film is watchable given the performance of Ms. Howard. She showed great range, and the problem facing her will be to find roles worthy of her powerful acting skill. I think the picture offered too many layers of interest thereby weakening any one. I would vote for concentrating on the mental dangers of so-called method acting which too often serves as a confession box.
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Experimental film about experimental theater.
TxMike13 February 2019
We were able to get this movie on DVD from our public library. My wife chose to skip it, not her kind of movie.

Watching it I didn't expect to "enjoy" it. In fact there is nothing enjoyable about it. However there is something compelling about it, maybe in the same way that we can be fascinated watching a train wreck. I couldn't stop watching it.

Don't take my comment wrong, I believe the filmmaker made exactly the movie she wanted to make. But she is of the experimental camp, a quote from her is "The beautiful thing about making art is the enormous possibility of failure." In other words make a movie you want and don't worry whether anyone will actually like it. Woody Allen is also that way but to me Allen makes much better movies.

Nothing seemed authentic to me and maybe that is the point. While I can give it reasonably high marks for the quality of what was produced, the movie, I cannot consider it a good movie. I watch movies mainly for a good story and and characters that I like. This one doesn't have either. It is more like watching a train wreck and marveling at the debris.
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