Sunday, January 25, 2015

LOCO Film Festival: M.L.E (2015)

Everyone at some point has had to humiliate themselves in various degrees in order to earn a salary; especially it seems for people who have a creative ambition in a crowded market place.  The question is though, how far do you go to get the job of your dreams?  And how low do you ethically sink in order to keep the dream alive…?

Writer/Director Sarah Warren plays Julie Roberts (not that one), an aspiring young Canadian actress who has come to London to star in a b-movie horror called Vampire Mermaids Go To Heaven.  Before the production team can complete a script read through, the funding is pulled and she and her actor friend Camilla (Julie Sype) are left jobless.  To make things worse, on leaving the studio she knocks a woman called Bella (Jo Price) off of her bike with her car, but rather than being upset or suing her she offers Julie a job – to spy on her stepdaughter Joy (Deidre Garcia) and find out how she is spending her allowance.

Julie reluctantly accepts the offer in between acting auditions and nightmarish meetings with egomaniacal agents, who make her demeaning offers for everything except acting work.  Yet, amongst the creepy agents she does meet the initially confrontational but eventually charming Harry (Ryan Mercier) who takes her out on some dates and shares her taste for cake and video games.  Meanwhile she begins to discover more about Joy and Bella and gets sucked further and further into learning about a strange and outlandish cult…

M.L.E is the first proper feature from Toronto-born Sarah Warren and is smart and seriously funny.  The script is razor-sharp with amazing one-liners (‘he’s cheating on me with his wife…’), some great visual humour (a hilarious reluctant handshake with Bella…) and plenty of sincere and tender moments.  After feeling that she has hit rock bottom, there is an amazing scene where Julie goes to find desperate paid-employment and meets a group of achingly twee and bubbly singing instructors.  Not only does this scene reflect a deep existential ennui of having to succumb to humiliation for basic minimum employment (it does to me anyway), but its also Just. So. Funny…

The film also has a serious message about women and the entertainment industry – the pinnacle line of dialogue hiding unassumingly in the middle of the second act has Sarah exasperatingly state how “everyone just wants to fuck me or fuck me over”, which is admittedly a funny line (delivered as such) but also contains within it a dark truth about the potential exploitation of aspiring actresses and other ambitious women.  For all of the glitz and (faux)liberalism of the film industry, it still has a fairly scandalous gender (and ethnicity) imbalance behind the camera and still an exploitative and simplistic representation of women on screen.

But without getting hung up on gender theory, the film simply has a funny narrative told at a charming pace filmed across a range of visual satisfying internal and external locations across London.  It looks great, has a lead character you feel genuine empathy for and perfectly balances tender scenes with funny situations.  It’s a romantic (and platonic) comedy that feels nothing like a ‘rom-com’.

This is why M.L.E. and films like it need to be championed – they are made by serious people with serious feminist agendas but executed in a light-hearted and funny way: with toilet humour, exaggerated facial comedy and talk about masturbation…

Watch M.L.E. on Curzon Home Cinema:!/film/CRZ_MLE

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