Wednesday 2 March 2022


Given a strand entirely focused on her back catalogue (her directorial career may still be in its infancy, but has amassed four features in four years), this year's International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) looked at the films of Amanda Kramer, including her most recent effort, Please Baby Please.

A musical odyssey starring Andrea Riseborough and Harry Melling as a couple questioning their gender roles and theories of traditional masculinity, I've seen Amanda Kramer's latest described as "West Side Story as directed by John Waters", and that about sums it up. Beginning in a quasi 1950's America with Riseborough and Melling's couple, Suze and Arthur, witnessing a savage beating by the Young Gents - a local gang of greasers outside their apartment building - this event sparks discussion about brutality, masculinity and "what is a man, anyway?". From there they both go alone on journeys of self discovery, with Arthur increasingly infatuated with a member of the gang - a rough around the edges type in the body of a Jean Paul Gaultier model - and Suze breaking through the prescribed limitations of her role as wife to find a new side of herself that appeals to her.

If you've seen any of Kramer's work before, you'll know what to expect, with dance-like movements and a hazy, old Hollywood feel mixed with a bold, contrasting blue/orange colour palette. The entire film feels like a queerified, LSD infused Lynchian trip, although - and not just to avoid cliche - not a film David Lynch would make himself, but one a fan of Lynch's work who's devoured his filmography certainly would. In the Bijou 52 cinema Suze visits it even has its own stand in for Mulholland Drive's Club Silencio, complete with a brief appearance from Bobby Briggs himself, Dana Andrews.

Meticulously designed, bombastic and occasionally over the top, it's not subtle about its themes of gender dysphoria and explores them in a manner that may be off-putting for general audiences, but will get lapped up by those with a taste for the surreal. This is the kind of heightened reality, almost stagey film that avant-garde theatre-goers would appreciate, with Ryan Simpkins (who worked with Kramer previously on Ladyworld) dragging it up as junior greaser Dickie, complete with stick on sideburns to fit in with the rest of the unruly gang of youths, who appear to be lead by a man in his 40s. That Simpkins is a non-binary actor adds to the discussion and exploration of the film's gender themes, but this is more fully examined through Riseborough's Suze, whose character is allowed the most growth and potential evolution. The hard to pin down era and setting keep the film at something of a distance, and if you're looking for a more considered take on the dismantling of binary norms, there's other films that better explore this.

With appearances from Demi Moore and Mary Lynn Rajskub in the supporting cast, Please Baby Please is a wild and unpredictable ride that will undoubtedly pull more audiences into the curious world of Amanda Kramer. Despite a great effort from Melling - who's long left Dudley Dursley long behind him with memorable roles in The Queen's Gambit and The Old Guard and has matured into an always welcome screen presence - this is Andrea Riseborough's film. An actor unafraid to take a walk on the wild side - see last year's Possessor for proof - she's having a ball as Suze, with wing tipped eyeliner exploring her masculine side and the opportunity to find her inner Brando. It's a great performance in a film that may not achieve all of its ambitions, but has a lot of fun putting on as grand (and as odd) a show as possible.


Please Baby Please screened as part of the 2022 International Film Festival Rotterdam. More information about the festival can be found here.

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