Thursday, August 21, 2014

Movie Review: Proxy

Directed by: Zack Parker.
Written by: Kevin Donner and Zack Parker.
Starring: Alexia Rasmussen (Esther Woodhouse), Alexa Havins (Melanie Michaels), Joe Swanberg (Patrick Michaels), Kristina Klebe (Anika Barön).

There are not many movies that are as completely unpredictable as Proxy is. It opens with a horrifying scene, as a very pregnant woman gets a checkup, and leaves the doctor’s office when she is dragged into a dark alley, and beaten – the attacker concentrating on her large stomach, hitting it repeatedly with a brick. The woman survives, the baby dies (of course), and she tries to pick up the pieces of her life. The woman, Esther (Alexia Rasmussen) appears to have no one – and is warned by the hospital councilors that she will need help to put her life back together. She starts going to a support group for parents with dead children – and that is where she meets Melanie (Alex Havins) who tells her about her dead son and husband. And then, weird things start happening. Esther does have someone in her life – a lesbian lover (Anika Baron). And Esther sees Melanie in a department store – freaking out over her missing son, only to see her go to her car in the parking lot and bring in a very alive young boy. She also has a husband (Joe Swanberg). What the hell is going on here?

Written and directed by Zack Parker, Proxy is one of the most daring, original films of the year – and even if it doesn’t quite hold together on close expectation (some of the plot contrivances are too much to believe), I didn’t much care. It’s not really a horror movie – although it’s being marketed as one – and not really a thriller, but something altogether different. It reminded me a little of Hitchcock (if for other reason than it pulls off a shocking mid-movie reversal as well than anything since Hitchcock did it), and a little bit of early 1980s Brian DePalma – for its bold stylistics, mixed with a little bit of old school David Cronenberg.

When the movie starts, it appears to be a study in grief – and perhaps recovery – but then the movie just keeps on twisting itself, and going in new and different directions – ending up being a portrait of two separately, but completely damaged women – who are damaged in completely different ways. Some will complain that the performances by Rasmussen and Havins are a little emotionless – perhaps even wooden – but that’s a deliberate choice by Parker (in fact, the Swanberg performance, where he emotes more than anyone else in the movie is the least effective, because it stands out like  sore thumb). And the performances are effective for the roles they play – Havins in particular is actually subtly brilliant.
I don’t want to say too much else about Proxy, for fear that I may ruin some of the surprises in the film. What I will say is that Proxy is a bold, daring film – a disturbing film that will likely make some run to the exits at the end of the first scene, with its brutal, bloody beating. For those who stay, first be warned that things are only going to get worse. And second, prepare yourself for a bold experiment in style – which is perfectly matched to its subject. Films like Proxy are rare these days – so, if you like films like this (and you know if you do) don’t let this one get away.

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