Sunday, June 11, 2023

To Leslie

Movie Name:
To Leslie
Year of Release: 2022
Director: Michael Morris
Starring: Andrea Riseborough, Marc Maron, Allison Janney, Owen Teague, Stephen Root, Andre Royo, Catfish Jean, James Landry Hebert, Matt Lauria
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review
"To Leslie" created a bit of a surprise at the Academy Awards of 2023 when Andrea Riseborough appeared as one of the nominees for Best Actress, for a film that very few had seen, also due to the unconventional way with which her performance and the film itself was publicized to the creative community in Hollywood (Mary McCormack, the director's wife leveraged her contacts to make a push for the film itself). Either way, the film which is based on a true story, follows the story of Leslie, a woman in her early 40s with a drinking addiction. She won a lottery a few years back, but ended up spending it all on alcohol, alienating in the process her young son, her parents and most of the community in the small town she's from. The film follows Leslie as she's evicted from the motel where she was living, and how her drinking causes problems with her son, who has distanced himself from her and yet tries to help her, the same going with Sweeney, a motel owner in the small town where she returns to, and where people still resent her. Leslie eventually realizes her chronic self destructive behavior is further isolating her from everyone, including the relationships she primarily wants to salvage.
"To Leslie" is an interesting feature, in the sense that it is Michael Morris' feature directorial debut, after a lengthy career directing episodes for prestige TV Shows, including "Political Animals", "Smash", "House of Cards", "Halt and Catch Fire" and the list goes on, and also because it's a character study focused on someone dealing with alcoholism, which isn't necessarily new ground (one only has to be reminded of Mike Figgis' "Leaving Las Vegas" or classics such as Blake Edwards' "Days of Wine of Roses" and Billy Wilder's "The Lost Weekend"). Michael Morris wisely avoids falling into the traps of misery porn, though there are some instances where it borderlines on it, opting instead with capturing the unflinching portrayal that Andrea Riseborough creates of Leslie. It's a film that has some ties with what Patty Jenkins created with "Monster", in the sense that their central characters are not filtered through a sympathetic tone, but are instead viewed as deeply flawed individuals, in this case, someone who eventually comes to the realization that the consequences of every single action, only comes back to haunt her, and her line of actions will eventually leave her alone, uncared for and forgotten. It's a film that doesn't shy away from portraying its central character in an unflattering perspective, though it does fail to build up the supporting characters into fully dimensional ones, depicting them more as catalysts for the emotional catharsis that Leslie needs to go through in order to grow up, as opposed to individuals whose lives were also deeply affected by her behavior and actions. The cast really brings this feature to life, with the superb Andrea Riseborough bringing both authenticity, vulnerability and edge to what could have easily have become another self-indulgent and overacting type of performance. She has great support from the always solid Marc Maron and the fantastic Allison Janney, whose character is sadly underdeveloped. The production team is solid, including the cinematography from Larkin Seiple and score from Linda Perry. It's an uneven journey, but definitely a deftly acted one. Worth watching.