A Free for All after the excitement of October’s Horror Month and we appear to have naturally landed on another very dark movie to kick it off. Another horror if you will. I’m not complaining though, especially since this one stars one of my faves.
Paint It Black (2016)
“A young woman attempts to deal with the death of her boyfriend while continuously confronted by his mentally unstable mother.”
Stars: Alia Shawkat, Simon Helberg, Janet McTeer, Alfred Molina
By all accounts the book that inspired this adaptation is fantastic. The film is fine, gorgeous to look at and very moody but there’s not much to it really.
Josie (Shawkat) is pissed off with her boyfriend Michael who’s been ignoring her for a couple of days. So she goes out drinking with her girlfriend to take her mind off things. Outside the apartment she shares with Michael (Rhys Wakefield), she realises she is being watched by a middle-aged women in an expensive car. Michael’s mother Meredith.
The morning after a heavy night out, Josie finds out why Michael has gone so silent. After checking himself into a motel under the alias Oscar Wilde, he has taken his own life. The bottom falls out of Josie’s world but she barely has time to register the news before Meredith (McTeer) is on the phone making cruel accusations about who’s fault her son’s suicide is.
At the funeral, Meredith attacks Josie and Michael’s father Cal steps in, sweeping her away for some post-funeral drinks. At the bar Cal admits that it’s always really been Michael and Meredith, with him considered the interloper. After realising that Meredith is still following her, Josie goes to her house and the pair get drunk together. Josie tries to leave but she’s too pissed and wakes up in Meredith’s guestroom. When Meredith finds her looking around Michael’s old room, she screams at Josie to get out.
Later the pair dine together and Josie permits Meredith to visit their shared apartment afterwards but forbids her from taking anything home with her. So begins an unsettling back and forth as the women compete for the prize of Michael; of his memory, his possessions and the right to grieve. Meredith clears out the apartment of everything and Josie steals it back – later Josie accuses Meredith of trying to kill her.
This twisted relationship comes to a head when Meredith makes Josie a peculiar offer that has the power to change her life forever. What will she do?
Well. This is a slow burner. It’s not bad – I mean there’s a lot of strong imagery and it’s very stylish – I just wish it had done more. Josie is starring in some sort of amateur movie project that looks pretentious AF and is being directed by Howard Wolowitz of The Big Bang Theory. She looks great because she’s Alia Shawkat and Shawkat is born to be filmed in low golden LA light (and in delicious vintage clothing) at all times.
There’s a sadness that permeates everything and I have sympathy for both the central characters, despite the fact neither of them are very likeable. Meredith is on the edge but it’s hardly surprising. As a girl her father drowned himself in the family pool, so she’s no stranger to suicide when her son kills himself. Josie doesn’t seem to have much direction herself and shares the history of her relationship with us via deeply photogenic flashbacks. We don’t really know much about the enigmatic Michael and that’s okay, really this is a movie about the women in his life and I like it for that.
Personally, I would have holed up with Meredith and accepted the lavish lifestyle she was offering. Who needs freedom of choice and moving on when you have designer frocks and dinner parties on tap? I jest obviously, and Josie does the right thing.
I’ll probably not think of this movie again honestly but it wasn’t a bad way to spend 98 minutes.