Quick Reviews: 'The Fallout', 'Deep Water' | Jenna Ortega, Ben Affleck, Ana De Armas
There's no E in high school for a reason, kids; they simply don't go together. That is one of the few lessons learned in writer-director Megan Park's first feature film, The Fallout, because school becomes a very uninviting place in it. Jenna Ortega plays a student named Vada, who survives a school shooting in the beginning along with a small-time-influencer Mia (Maddie Ziegler) and Quinton (Niles Fitch) by hiding in girls' bathroom, a luck that isn't shared by Quinton's brother among others. Following the ''incident''—as people carefully put it—Vada struggles to deal with this trauma as she and Mia find escapism while being intoxicated. This also affects Vada's relationships with her kid sister Amelia (Lumi Pollack), mom Patricia (Julie Bowen) and dad Carlos (John Ortiz).
Having the main conflict in film's first act works great for the story, even if first couple scenes are a bit on a softer side when it comes to character building, because it leads extremely well to the strongest part of Park's narrative which are the family dynamics. Ortega's acting is excellent because she makes the character's journey easy to track, despite the challenges of having to start so deep right from the get-go. Ortega's interplay with Bowen and Pollack deliver the film's strongest scenes overall, much thanks to the fine-tuned silences and pauses that close family members can handle.
At times, Park loses some of the control on that intimacy and sincerity, like in Vada's and/or Mia's experiments with alcohol and drugs, or Vada's later give-and-take with her best friend Nick (Will Ropp). In those moments Jennifer Lee’s editing, Kristen Correll's camera and Park's written dialogue have an aesthetic from a slightly different movie, even though Vada, Mia and Quinton's mindsets haven't changed dramatically from previous scenes. Thankfully the sincere moments do overweigh the flimsier ones and The Fallout bears enough emotionality and empathy to move you.
Smileys: Jenna Ortega, Julie Bowen, Lumi Pollack
Frowneys: Some issues with dialogue and tone
With a title like this, you might be imagining a setting by a big lake or, heck, even a nice spot by an ocean. What might become as a surprise to you is that ironically waters of Deep Water are just as deep as the character relationships in it, and that means mainly a waist-deep river and a swimming pool. Adrian Lyne returns to his directing seat after 20 years while the script is handled by Zach Helm and Sam Levinson, adapting an erotic thriller novel of the same name from 1957. Ana de Armas and Ben Affleck star as a barely soaked couple, Melinda and Vic Van Allen, who have an awkward and detached marriage, seemingly only staying together for their daughter and possibly financial reasons. Melinda has a habit of seeing younger lovers, some who end up missing or found dead, leading her and the couple's friends to suspect that Vic is behind their fates.
Disappointing thing about Deep Water is that it doesn't really go anywhere neither with erotic tension or its psychological thriller elements that are driving the plot forward. It's kind of implied that there is some incentive to making the other one break up the marriage but it's never explored all that much, which is a shame because that would build the characters and make them more interesting to the viewer. Similarly half-cooked is the murder mystery storyline where those killings feel stupidly improvised despite that Vic's motivations to commit them is to seek power; ultimately they become just as pointless as his infatuation with snails because there isn't much payoff to them. Affleck and de Armas are solid in their roles, as are the visual language and movie's overall premise, but the screenwriters and Lyne don't manage to take their vision beyond that. Aggressively mediocre execution in all aspects isn't what you want to find in film, and particularly in this very genre where emotions are supposed to run high.
Smileys: Nothing too great
Frowneys: Nothing too awful