I’ve seen or talked to lots and lots of actors at the Critics’ Choice Awards, but two years ago I was standing at a table with a woman and we got to talking. I asked what she did in Hollywood and she said, “I’m not in the business, I’m friends with an actress who is up for an award, and she brought me as her guest.”
I asked her who and she replied, “Margo Martindale. Do you know who that is?”
My wife and I then geeked out, telling her how much we loved her work. She offered to introduce us, which thrilled me. But…there was an ice cream booth set up and I went over to get some and…by the time I got back, she wasn’t there.
I was disappointed when I saw Martindale in The Kitchen, but only because the movie was awful. She showed she could play someone nasty rather well (and my wife tells me she does it brilliantly in The Americans). So it’s great that this movie is the perfect showcase for her subtle take on the heavy. Speaking of which, it’s also nice to see a female heavy that runs things [it reminds me of when I first saw Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom]. Also refreshing to have a mostly female cast, in a movie written and directed by two women — Danielle Krudy and Bridge Savage Cole. She sure puts the “savage” in that name. In fact, they should be dubbed the “Savage Sisters” as the female version of the Coen brothers (no matter that they aren’t sisters, but friends that met at Wellesley). The fact that they made a Coen brothers-esque film, should be enough to give them the nickname.
One of the Coen moves they did that didn’t work, was having the salty, crusty, bearded seaman act as the Greek chorus, belting out sea shanties. It might have worked to bookend the movie with it, but not in the middle of the film. Those things worked for O Brother Where Art Thou? That was basically a musical. It worked in There’s Something About Mary because it was a wacky comedy, and you got brilliant songwriter Jonathan Richman. In this, it just comes off as a goofy distraction that’s going to take people out of what should be a taut, intense, low-budget noir. It’s Fargo, with seafood instead of sedans.
This all takes place in the fictional town of Easter Cove, Maine. The setting exudes atmosphere (and was shot wonderfully by Todd Banhazl).
We meet sisters Mary Beth and Priss Connolly (Morgan Saylor, Sophie Lowe) at their mother’s funeral. Their seafood shop isn’t doing so well, and the house payments are about a year behind. I give the Savage Sisters credit as screenwriters for how they get the wheels in motion with what these sisters do and showing us the rotten underbelly of this town. A weaker script would’ve had them find a satchel of cash belonging to a drug lord, that tries to kill them. This has a lot of side stories — some would argue too many, but I liked the ambitious nature of it).
Priss is the sister who would probably make things work out okay for the two, but Mary Beth, the wild child sister has to get drunk at a bar, and hook up with the wrong guy. There are two things about this that I again, applaud these women for writing. Mary Beth isn’t just a rebel. She’s a bit peeved she had to put off college to take care of her mom, and is now in debt, and also wants to leave the crappy town. The second smart thing about this scene is how the attack with the guy at the bar takes place. It’s a lot more interesting that you’re watching it, wondering if the things that happened were what the character thought were going to happen. Was he going to rape her, or…was he just a drunk guy getting handsy? No matter, she kills him.
Yet one of the problems I had with this is the poor choices these characters, and many others…start to make. I hate to watch a movie and think to myself — One phone call to the police would’ve taken care of everything.
When a knife is left at the scene of the crime, the sister that goes to retrieve it finds a stash of money. Let the Coen brothers hijinks ensue!
One of the handful of pleasant surprises is watching how a bunch of blue hairs in town, aren’t just gossips. They know the town secrets and have a bit of pull. It’s also lovely that they’re played by Marceline Hugot, from Better Call Saul; June Squibb, who I fell in love with in Nebraska (Bruce Dern); and Annette O’Toole, who I fell in love with as a kid, when she was tutoring Robby Benson in One on One. As an adult, I fell in love with her songs that were used in her husband Michael McKean’s movie A Mighty Wind.
The woman that they want to run out of town is Enid Devlin, played by Martindale. And she’s having none of it.
She runs the bed-and-breakfast, and a few illegal things at the Oceanview.
And as these women have their squabbles with each other, all of them seem to care about these two young women that just lost their mother.
The plot thickens as bodies pile up, and two small-town sheriffs start sniffing around. I like that they’re not over-the-top in their quirkiness. A young officer (Will Brittain) has a crush on Priss, and seems to be the smarter of the two. The heavy-set cop (Skipp Sudduth) is the doofus that some prostitutes in town seem to know well.
The pacing is off a bit, and this movie needed a few more great scenes and a few less meandering ones.
You just feel you’ve seen this done before, sometimes better. Shallow Grave (Ewan McGregor), the previously mentioned Fargo, also the Coens’ Blood Simple, to name a few that pop to mind. Although I did like this better than No Country For Old Men, which also deals with a character that finds money that belongs to bad people.
This is a solid film debut and I’m eagerly looking forward to the next picture these two talented women give us.
This is currently on Amazon Prime for free, and is worth checking out.
2 ½ stars out of 5.