Tuesday, 3 April 2018

BECKS - BFI FLARE FILM FESTIVAL review

Screened as part of the BFI FLARE LGBTQ+ Film Festival, Lena Hall stars as musical Becks, returning home after a break up to reacquaint herself with her past and her mother.



Returning to your childhood home may be an indie movie staple at this point (Garden State perhaps the most obvious example), but for Becks (Lena Hall) there's an added element. Away from the judgement and conflicted feelings of her mother, Becks has been allowed to live her life as she wishes without having to justify herself. Moving back home, both to recuperate after her separation from girlfriend Lucy (Hayley Kiyoko) and because she's broke, she's once again under the roof and the watchful eye of her mother (Christine Lahti).

Feeling creatively stifled, she takes her friend Dave (Dan Fogler) up on his offer to perform live music at his local bar Perfectos, where she meets bored housewife Elyse (Mena Suvari). Agreeing to help tutor her on guitar, soon the chemistry between Becks and Elyse leads to a complicated romance. As a veteran of the LA dating scene Becks is well aware that Elyse may just be a bored housewife, using her to fulfil a longstanding lesbian fantasy, but soon starts to feel a real connection with her, despite their wildly different lives. Whereas Becks has struggled to live as a touring musician, Elyse has a huge house, close friends and a seemingly ideal relationship with husband Mitch (Darren Ritchie). Basically, as straight and white as their picket fences.

I wasn't familiar with Lena Hall before this film, but she's quite a multi-talented presence. It's a compelling performance that makes you wish for Becks to come out on top, even when she's less than likeable. The film is peppered with musical performances from Hall, bringing to mind the emotional heft of other musical films like John Carney's Once. It's quite clear the filmmakers know that it's best to just put the camera on Hall and let her do her thing.

Of the supporting cast, Becks has an interesting friendship with Dan Fogler's Dave, a former teenage flame who sees Becks potential but is also aware of her ability to sabotage herself. It's not a huge role for Fogler, but he and Hall have great interplay in all of their scenes. Top of the supporting cast is Christine Lahti as Becks' mother. It would have been quite easy to play her as a one note, judgemental religious stereotype, but Lahti sees the layers in her character and the conflicts she has between her beliefs and her love for her daughter.

But at the core of the film is the relationship between Becks and Elyse. Mena Suvari, looking like an all American girl cliche doesn't at first appear to have too much depth to her, but she does keep you guessing as to what her long term intentions are. Is she conflicted about her sexuality? Is she using Becks as a way of escaping her unhappy marriage? In what direction does she want her life to go? There is real chemistry between Mena and Lena, although their liaisons do lead to what might be the films only real mis-step, in a sex scene that although admirably frank, tips over into the kind of 'comedy of embarrassment' scenario that would be more suited to the American Pie series.

Although Becks might be walking a well-trodden indie film path, it does it well enough to be a standout. There's a sweet, endearing romance at the centre of the film, but it's the performance of Hall, whether behind a microphone or not, that makes this one worth seeking out.

Verdict
4/5


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