Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
"LAST OF THE MONSTER KIDS" - Available Now on the Amazon Kindle Marketplace!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

OSCARS 2018: A Fantastic Woman (2017)

When it comes to the different categories, I’m going to say some are more widely watched by Academy voters than others. I would wager the shorts are the least watched, just do to a lack of interest. It seems a lot of Academy voters don’t take animation very seriously, so the Animated Features don’t get too much attention. Lastly, the Foreign Language films probably get overlooked a lot, simply do to the lack of well-known movie stars or flashy awards campaigns. (The same can likely be said of the Documentary nominees.) For me, this year, most of the Foreign Language film nominees were sadly not available. Luckily, I was able to see “A Fantastic Woman” in the theater, so that’s cool.

Marina is a trans-woman living in modern day Chile. She works as a waitress during the week and sings in bars on the weekend. Currently, Marina is dating and living with an older man named Orlando. After a romantic night, Orlando awakes feeling unwell. As Marina rushes him to the hospital, Orlando tumbles down the stairs and hits his head. Shortly after arriving, Orlando dies of an aneurysm. Orlando's family, who did not approve of his relationship with Marina and refuses to understand the woman's condition, do everything they can to exclude Marina from the grieving period. She struggles to express herself in this situation.

“A Fantastic Woman” is one of those movies that introduces a likable, nice lead character then does a bunch of shitty things to them. Much of the movie is devoted to Marina enduring one humiliation after another. The world refuses to let her process the trauma of her dear lover dying suddenly. Minutes after Orlando dies, a police officer questions Marina like she's a potential murderer and then misgenders her. An investigator bothers her at work, alternating between accusing her of being a murderer or a victim. Orlando's family treats her the worst. The son shows up at the apartment, says a bunch of insulting shit, and then threatens to steal her dog and kick her out. The family refuses to let her attend the funeral. Eventually, the son and his friends abduct Marina, wrap tape around her face, and drop her in an alley. Marina, who is always a pleasant and kind person, has done nothing to deserve this. Which makes “A Fantastic Woman” a somewhat downbeat, frequently uncomfortable viewing.

I can only assume director Sebastian Leilo did this intentionally, as “A Fantastic Woman” is partially a film about the difficulties transgender people experience in the modern world. Occasionally, Leilo's symbolism is a little too astute. Such as a dream where Marina, who is seemingly being attacked by the whole world, walks against an increasingly strong wind. Over all, Leilo's direction is strong. He opens the film with bright colors, warm blues and purples flashing across the screen. There are other expressive flourishes, such as a slow zoom into an empty locker. Or a sudden song and dance fantasy sequence inside a gay bar, one of the few times Marina as a character is allowed a moment of pure joy. It's a really nice looking film.

Usually, Leilo trusts his actors to do good work. The film stars trans-actress and opera singer Daniela Vega. Vega's performance is raw and vulnerable without making the character seem weak. In fact, Marina is very strong. She constantly faces humiliation and scrutiny but keeps her composure. It's not until the very end that Marina's frustration finally boils over, allowing a moment of cathartic action. Even then, her pain and grief must quickly be turned inward again. The film ends with a stunning musical display from Vega, Marina taking her pain and fear and transforming it into a pure expression of song. It's a star-making performance and hopefully Vega will get more roles.

“A Fantastic Woman” is an emotionally complex but eventually touching film, showing someone going through a hard time in a world that refuses to accept them for who they are. It features an impressive performance from Daniela Vega and is generally pretty to look at. Some are saying its the front runner to win the Oscar. I still haven't seen enough of the nominees in that category to say for sure. There are others I enjoyed more but this would be a bold, powerful choice for the award. [7/10]

No comments: