Tribeca 2021: 'Poser' | 'False Positive' (Reviews)
The festival's musical comedy drama splash comes from the filmmaking duo of Ori Segev and Noah Dixon, both credited as directors and editors while Dixon is responsible for the screenplay alone, in the form of Poser. With a name that wouldn't be out place in your early 2000's regional metal band's lineup, Lennon Gates (Sylvie Mix) is searching for a new thing to be passionate about and she ends up starting a podcast about the independent music scene in her hometown of Columbus, Ohio. She is trying to ''do things outside of her comfort zone'', as she often proclaims, and ultimately becomes smitten with Bobby Kitten (playing a version of herself), a singer-guitarist of a local alt-pop band, to the point that a podcast might not be the only thing that restrained Lennon is up to.
While the movie isn't always flashy or even cinematic per se, it still has an effective one-two punch of an intriguing story and nice balance of darkly comedic and dramatic beats. The story of Lennon and her infatuation with Bobby plays out like a mystery tale which is contrasted by almost rom-com-like scenes between the two of them, though breaking out the song is here done naturally within the scenes which also feels refreshing as the soundtrack is really eclectic throughout. Both leads in Mix and Kitten seem to be new faces but it's really thanks to them that the comedy and drama don't cancel each other out, both actors play it just small enough that the stakes feel somewhat real.
Considering that Segev and Dixon have found the distinctness of Columbus' music scene and managed to turn that into a thrilling story about deception for mass audiences, it's a slight detriment that some of the filmmaking isn't at that level. Much of their editing resembles more of commercials or web series in terms of rhythm (not aware if that's their background) and some of the blocking of actors has that same style too. Cinematography and production design are sufficient but there isn't the same kind of uniqueness that the story has, which then would make the editing a bit less distracting. Still, Poser can easily be a stepping stone from The Basement to Newport Music Hall for everyone involved, a fitting title helps too.
Smileys: Tone, story
It's a funny thing that you can't really tell if you should recommend a movie like False Positive to pregnant women or should you steer them far away from it, considering the subject matter but also the lengths it goes to while exploring that. Director John Lee also wrote the movie with its star Ilana Glazer who plays Lucy, one half of the couple with the other being Adrian (Justin Theroux). They have been trying to get pregnant for some time with no success and by his connections, their next move is to visit the office of reproductive specialist Dr. Hindle (Pierce Brosnan in a menacing turn). The couple end up having success with this doctor but also have to make tough decisions on certain issues, while Lucy seemingly starts to lose her perception on the reality around her as she tries to understand what is real and what isn't.
False Positive is mostly a hybrid of horror and drama which has become a bit more frequent in the last few years in the film space. Most of them don't always have a grabbing starting point but here we certainly got one as the fascinating premise gets the story farther than you are used to, so much so that you are invested in the payoff of it all. That said, as more script pages get turned, the less intriguing the story becomes. At least personally, I had caught on to the twist early (and guessed one smaller character turn, too) but was still waiting for another surprise to make the journey worth the time. Unfortunately, that never came and then the film's atmosphere gets sucked out in the last act as the resolution felt inconsistent and unintentionally hilarious, it was more like a horror comedy at that point and none of the setup was comedic.
In the acting department, it's also a tale of discrepancy. Brosnan shows up surprisingly ominous in his doctor role as he even manages to make lubrication of medical objects look threatening, there the horror elements that make the viewer feel a bit off balance are really effective. Glazer is never not-convincing but she also doesn't get the high-quality dialogue the character deserved so she falls into the middle while Theroux just seems miscast altogether. Technically he isn't distracting or anything but he and the character never seem to be present in the scenes so it's hard to connect any emotional dots as an audience. Sometimes he just seems to miss light and contrast, which funnily the lighting also lacks since the sets constantly made me think of either studio sitcoms or bad, low-budget horror where you can't separate anything. The movie does feel urgent but it never feels as subversive as it could have.
Smileys: Pierce Brosnan, premise
Frowneys: Justin Theroux, lighting, screenplay