Arianne’s Tribeca 2021 Round-Up

As Tribeca comes to an end, it is time for me to write about some of the films that I have watched. Some I loved, others not so much, but all deserve attention for the sheer amount of work that has been put into making them. 

I watched over 20 films at this year’s Festival, while I won’t write about all of them and wrote some full reviews for others, these are the few movies that I found myself really loving.

(You can read all of our coverage of the Festival here.)

Accepted (Dir. Dan Chen)

Like many, I knew what the subject of Accepted was. Following students of TM Landry Prep School, the school that made headlines when it became known that it had a 100% acceptance rate into the country’s most elite colleges until an explosive New York Times article exposed the controversial teaching methods of its dynamic founder.

It is clear that the filmmakers of this documentary got lucky. That they were already there when the article came out and just ripped the benefits of the fallout in order to create one of the most fascinating documentaries of the festival. But even before the truth is revealed, Accepted shows that what the Landry’s try to do with their school was for good reasons and that maybe there is more to the story, but it is also incredibly shocking when you hear the students talk about their experience after the article comes out.

What benefits this documentary is that it decides to focus on four very different students who all end up going in different directions. By focusing on four seniors, the director lucks out when all four decides to leave the school and make their own way after the New York Time piece, resulting in some great moments that would not have happened if it had instead focused on the Landry’s.

All My Friends Hate Me (Dir. Andrew Gaynord)

Being stressed out is not something I particularly like, especially when it comes to films. All My Friends Hate Me had me stressed from start to finish. Pete (Tom Stourton) is cautiously excited about reuniting with his college crew for a birthday weekend. But, one by one, his friends slowly turn against him. And if that premise sounds pretty boring, you should look past it, because this film does something really well and its to build tension.

The film doesn’t really stick the landing which is a shame because everything before worked so well. The tension that is built throughout, the reveals, the score, everything builds up to this epic finish and the ending did truly let me down. But if you look past that, All My Friends Hate Me develops characters that are all pretty unlikable, a group of friends that is clearly not who they all think they are, dynamics that don’t work and yet do, it’s a film that is made to make you uncomfortable and it works so well at doing so. 

Catch The Fair One (Dir. Josef Kubota Wladyka)

Catch The Fair One is brutal. There are times where I had to squint my eyes because the violence was so present that it was hard to watch and yet, by the end, I found myself wishing that the film had been able to even be more brutal. It has trouble balancing the level of how far they can push it, with at times not going far enough to show how difficult the situation is. It’s a balancing act that can be difficult to execute and for the most part, it gets it right, but others, not so much.

A former champion boxer (Kali Reis) embarks on the fight of her life when she goes in search of her missing sister. The former boxer intentionally gets entangled in a human trafficking operation in order to retrace the steps of her kid sister and work her way up the chain of command to find the man responsible. 

Kali Reis, herself a boxer, delivers a performance that is haunting as Kaylee. There’s always something that pulls you back in her performance, her raw talent being made the most of. Usually, athletes that jump to acting are a mixed bag, but Reis proves that she has the emotional range on top of the physical strength. She is the star of this film and carries the film from start to finish.

Dating & New York (Dir. Jonah Feingold)

Dating & New York is in your face from start to finish. Over the top, with the use of narration that is at times making fun of romantic comedies but also leaning so heavily in the tropes that it is clear that this film walks a very fine line of parody and comedy. It’s something that can be difficult to navigate and it doesn’t always work, but when it does, Dating & New York is pretty great.

When Milo (Jaboukie Young-White) and Wendy (Francesca Reale) both swipe right, they embark on this journey that both changes their life and perspective on love. A simple idea, one that we have seen before, but Jonah Feingold does it with a flair that is unique to his.

Jaboukie Young-White and Francesca Reale are both incredible in the role, but just like with everything he has been in up until this point Young-White steals the show. He brings this whole film together and even showcases how he can kill it during dramatic moments, it’s a performance that should get him so much work. The strength of the film is with the pacing and editing, the film using every tool it can to be over the top and proving that this film is very self-aware. It could have been too much, but it knows when to stop.

I will say that the last line of the film did bring everything down and I wish it hadn’t been included because it just made the whole film seem useless.

India Sweets & Spices (Dir. Geeta Malik)

A lot of comparison have been made about India Sweets & Spices to Crazy Rich Asians, and while, yes, both deal with rich people that are part of minorities, that is the extend of the resemblance between the films. India Sweets & Spices is a mix of a romantic comedy with a splash of coming of age story. It’s about finding love but also growing up and seeing your parents for who they are.

When college freshman Alia (Sophia Ali) returns home for the summer, she discovers secrets and lies in her parents’ past that makes her question everything she thought she knew about her family. 

The premise of the film is simple and yes, the film is a bit bare at times, but India Sweets & Spices is also one of those films that will clearly become a comfort film for a lot of people. There’s a lot to love about it, especially the performance from Sophia Ali who balances the vulnerability of Alia and the clear need for emancipation that Alia has. It’s a film that a lot of people will be able to relate to and one that I hope will get a wide release just like Crazy Rich Asians did.

Italian Studies (Dir. Adam Leon)

Italian Studies is the definition of style over substance. For many, this will make this movie a bore and will end up hating it, but I am of the other camp. This is a film that you will either love or hate, I don’t really know why I love it, but I found myself fascinating by Adam Leon’s film. Starring the always fantastic Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman, The Crown), this film a vehicle for her, and even then, she doesn’t get a lot to do. 

When a writer (Kirby) loses her memory in New York City, attempting to find her way home, she connects with a group of strangers in conversations, real and imagined. If this seems like a thin story, it’s because it is. Italian Studies relies so much on the charisma of its lead that sometimes it loses a lot and yet because Kirby is so strong, the film is capable of holding up. Pair that with the score from Nicholas Britell and the mesmerizing cinematography, Italian Studies isn’t a complete bore. Sure, Kirby spends 90% of the film looking around lost but somehow, this film worked for me. 

LFG (Dir. Andrea Nix Fine and Sean Fine)

If you know me, you know that I live and breathe two things. Movies and sports. While soccer might not be my preferred sport, basketball is, I still find myself keeping up with teams and certain players. LFG follows some of the biggest names in the United States women’s national soccer team as they sue the United States Soccer Federation for pay discrimination. If the documentary is at times all over the place with its story-telling, it is impossible to not get angry as more and more is revealed. This is a team that is at the top of their game and I get it, women’s sports bring less in advertising and publicity for their federations but even then when a team is as successful as this team, it is impossible to not see the injustice in the move.

Because the documentary is at times all over the place, LFG suffers a lot but once it gets to the nitty and gritty of the situation, the film shines. I do wish they had focused a little bit more on other sports, made comparisons with other national teams or even go with the pay disparity in all sports and even the world, but the film chooses to focus solely on this team and has tunnel vision. That doesn’t mean it is bad because that is just not true, but the film does suffer from its tunnel vision.

No Man of God (Dir. Amber Sealey)

Do we need another Ted Bundy film? No. But No Man of God is worth the watch simply for the performance from Luke Kirby and Elijah Wood. Films that try to humanized serial killers shouldn’t be made anymore, there’s enough of them and No Man of God enters that category. A lot of comparisons can be drawn between this film and Netflix’s Mindhunters since after all both are about the exploration of serial killers and have a character that is based on former FBI profiler Robert Ressler. 

The problem with No Mand of God is that it tries to make it seems like Elijah Wood’s Bill Hagmaier is similar to Bundy and that they have more in common than we think, that we all have this inner desire that could make us be serial killers but that argument just doesn’t help the film like it thinks it does. Trying to humanize serial killers and Bundy is not the right way to do this and should not be something that so many filmmakers want to do. Sure, Wood and Kirby are outstanding, especially Kirby who simply continues to deliver career-best performances in everything, but this idea behind the film just brought it all down for me.

Roaring 20’s (Dir. Elisabeth Vogler)

One-take films can be a gimmick, usually taking away from the story, making it all about the incredible achievement that is a film all in one take. And while Roaring 20’s does sometimes fall into the gimmick of the one-take film, it doesn’t matter because it is impossible not to be impressed by the feat that this is. 

Taking place over a day, Roaring 20’s follow individuals as they go about their day in a post-COVID world in Paris. I have talked at length about how tired I am of COVID-oriented film, but while this film touches on the pandemic, it’s about the life after, instead deciding to showcase how we go on about our lives now that the world is reopening. When a film is composed of multiple vignettes, it is bound to happen that some of the characters and their story aren’t as strong or made for you. And this happens, but when you can connect to one of the vignettes you find yourself immerse into the street of Paris.

Poser (Dir. Ori Segev and Noah Dixon)

While watching Poser, I couldn’t help but compare the film to Ingrid Goes West and I know that it might be wrong to do so, but because the subject is so similar, I just couldn’t help myself. But Poser is vastly different, much darker and set in the world of underground music instead. There’s a lot to love about Poser, especially the lead performance from Sylvie Mix, but pair that with a strong script and cinematography, and you end up with a pretty great film.

As Lennon (Sylvie Mix) fuels her desire for entree into a podcast featuring live music and conversations with the artists she so fervently admires, Lennon finds inspiration for her own musical ambitions…and a growing sense of misdirected identity. 

The theme of obsession is the key to this film, Lennon’s obsession drives the film and while the film takes a while to get to the point, once it gets there, the film never stops. By the end, Lennon’s obsession because central to everything and Sylvie Mix does such a great job at showcasing the slow descent into madness of her character. It’s a performance that could have gone too big, but the layers that she brings makes it so nuanced and by the end, you don’t know if you want Lennon to succeed or not because of her actions.

Stockholm Syndrome (Dir. The Architects)

I am not the biggest ASAP Rocky fan, I have listened to his music and have always been impressed with his visuals, but I wouldn’t call myself a fan per se. That being said, it is impossible to not be aware of his arrest and the reaction to it if you have any kind of online presence. Stockholm Syndrome is about that said arrest and the aftermath of it. The wave that is made, the response online, Rocky’s own reaction to it and how everything played out in the courts.

The problem with this documentary is that it leans so heavily in who Rocky is that it loses a lot of what could have made it great. The documentary touches slightly on the social injustice as well as the racial injustice that lead to the arrest as well as the response worldwide to it. Instead, it focuses a lot on his music and his style. This could have been a great documentary that talked about the justice system as a whole, how it is broken worldwide and how black people are treated in that system, and sure it addresses it, even Rocky himself addresses his past comments about BLM and doesn’t shy away about how the experience changed his views, but the documentary does it so briefly that it looses so much of the power it could have had.

Werewolves Within (Dir. Josh Ruben)

I didn’t watch Josh Ruben’s Scare Me but I have so many people around me who sang its praise (yes, it’s on my watchlist) that I knew there was no way I was going to miss this one. And I am so glad that I didn’t. Werewolves Within is so much fun, it is over the top, in your face most of the time and yet, even with the weak parts of the script, you can’t help but enjoy the ride you are on.

After a proposed gas pipeline creates divisions within the small town of Beaverfield, a snowstorm traps its residents together inside the local in. Newly arrived forest ranger Finn (Sam Richardson) and postal worker Cecily (Milana Vayntrub) must try to keep the peace and uncover the truth behind a mysterious creature that has begun terrorizing the community.

If everyone in the cast is fabulous, especially Richardson and Vayntrub who get the most to do, the film belongs to Michaela Watkins who steals every single scene she was in. Every time she opened her mouth, tears of laughter left my body, I just could not contain them. It’s an all-around great cast, but Watkins is truly the one that makes this movie go over the line.

(You can read Andres’ review here.)

These are some of the films that I watched and loved, but what about you, what have you seen at the Festival or what are you looking forward to from other people’s reaction?