Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Movie Review: The Love Witch

The Love Witch
Directed by: Anna Biller
Written by: Anna Biller
Starring: Samantha Robinson (Elaine), Gian Keys (Griff), Laura Waddell (Trish), Jeffrey Vincent Parise (Wayne), Jared Sanford (Gahan), Robert Seeley (Richard), Jennifer Ingrum (Barbara), Clive Ashborn (Professor King), Ella Evans (Star).
Anna Biller’s The Love Witch is a pretty much spot on recreation of a certain time from the 1960s – but served up with a modern twist. In terms of its visual look, it is pretty much a spot on recreation of the Techni-Color B-movies of the 1960s. The bold, bright colors of the costumes and production design is wonderful, the cinematography eye-popping. The makeup and hair styles are just this side of over the top. This extends to the sound design – the music – and the performances as well, which are deliberately a bit wooden, and the dialogue which is deliberately on-the-nose. The film reminds me of what Todd Haynes has done in films like Far From Heaven or Carol – except taken to an even further extreme than Haynes would take it. All this hyper stylization in the film is the reason to see The Love Witch – but it also may be the reason why it didn’t really connect with me on anything other than an aesthetic level. Everything in the film is done with a wink-wink, nudge nudge – and so while I appreciated how Biller is taking a genre that was often misogynistic, and turning that on its head – that’s about as far as it goes.
The film stars Samantha Robinson as Elaine – a witch, who is drop dead gorgeous, and yet still feels the need to use a love potion to get men to fall in love with her. She has completely swallowed the misogynistic messaging of the times (cleverly, Biller sets in the film in modern day, despite all the 1960s callbacks visually – showing how little we’ve moved forward) – and lives only to serve the men in her life. Yet, she is also let down by them as well – which is how she ends up leaving a trail of bodies in her wake. The police – led by Griff (Gian Keys) eventually do start looking into all these strange deaths – but like every other man in the film, he becomes infatuated with Elaine.
There is so much to like about this film that I’m disappointed in myself that I didn’t end up loving it as so many other do. I do think that the film looks amazing – and its all the more impressive when you realize what Biller did on a limited budget – and by herself (she directed, wrote, produced, edited the film, and did the costumes, production design, sets, music – and practically everything else). She is meticulous in every detail of the film – and that attention to detail shows in every visually magnificent frame of the film. I also quite liked the performance by Samantha Robinson as Elaine – it’s funny, sexy, strange and subversive.
Yet, ultimately, I think the film is drowning in just a little too much style – at a certain point, you simply admire all the eye popping details, and the message of the film – a worthy one – ends up floating by beneath the radar. There is so much to love about the film, and yet this is an example where the total is less than the sum of its parts. I cannot wait to see what Biller does next – but The Love Witch is ultimately a wonderful looking curiosity more than anything else.

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