Pop culture essays, criticism, fistfights

Tribeca 2012: Caroline and Jackie

The 2012 Tribeca Film Festival runs from April 18th to April 29th. Jeff Hart and Jeremiah White are there and will be seeing a shitload of movies.

The intense look of hatred reserved for an older sister.

Jackie (Bitsie Tulloch) has spent most of the day slaving away in the kitchen, cooking her mother's famous pot roast in celebration of a rare visit from older sister Caroline (Marguerite Moreau). The occasion is doubly special as it's Caroline's birthday; Jackie has an intimate sisters only dinner planned, plus a meaningful present picked out. However, when Caroline at last breezes into town, she doesn't want to stay in, she wants to drag Jackie out. Despite Jackie's timid objections, dinner is moved to a swanky restaurant where Caroline has actually assembled some of Jackie's closest friends. Even though it is months away, Caroline has contrived to throw Jackie a surprise birthday party. It's weird, and as the night goes on and Caroline's true motives are revealed, it only gets weirder.

To describe more of the plot would be to spoil some of the fun of Caroline and Jackie, one of the most surprising and enjoyable films I've seen at this year's festival. It isn't the mundane family drama it sounds like; writer/director Adam Christian Clark has blended in elements of dark comedy and psychological thriller, a mixture that should keep viewers unsteady throughout the film's electric 90 minutes.

As older sister Caroline, Moreau has one of the most frightening cases of crazy-eyes I've ever seen committed to film. Calling a performance brave is a cliche, but Moreau seriously puts it out there. Drunkenly cavorting in a pool, improvised performance art, a general sex-kitten-escaped-from-the-sanitarium demeanor - it all makes for a character that's kinda terrifying, but impossible to look away from.

Tulloch as more conservative sister Jackie is up to the considerable task of being Tulloch’s foil. She's certainly a more relatable character - perhaps the most relatable the film has to offer - and yet it's hard to totally identify with her as our "hero." She might not have Caroline's outward quirks, but there's something unsettling underneath her uptight fussiness. That we never know exactly where we stand with these characters is another great credit to Clark’s twisted screenplay.

I'll allow that Caroline and Jackie might not be for everyone. The characters are mostly intensely vapid, and they act accordingly. Frequently I felt like reaching into the film and strangling someone, particularly Grimm star David Guintoli as Jackie's incompetent boyfriend. It's an aggravating and uncomfortable film, and if those aren't feelings you look for in your cinema, you should probably avoid this one. For me, it's a rare pleasure for a film to get so under my skin. Not to mention that if you find humor in the awkward verging on tortuous, the film will keep you laughing.

Ultimately, Caroline and Jackie is a film about how blood is thicker than water, but sometimes a little of that metaphorical blood might need to get spilled. It's a riveting twist of genres, consistently surprising and disturbing, a film that will almost certainly make my Top 20 of 2012.

VERDICT:  See it.

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