Leslie, review of the film with Andrea Riseborough, out of competition at Alice nella Città

It cost less than a million dollars Leslie (Out of competition in Alice nella Città: soon to be released in Italy under the title Leslie), a film that is the quintessential American indie in terms of character, spirit, form and parable, which seems to find its strength precisely in its limited budget. An example is already in the opening credits: in the details of various photographs, sometimes eloquent, sometimes hinting, to the melody of a rather powerful song like Here I am from Dolly Parton we learn about the past of the main character, a single mother from Texas, who has already become a victim of domestic violence and squandered all the money from winning the lottery.

When we find her again, she is in complete confusion: a perpetual alcoholic, she is being evicted from her home, and so she is looking for her teenage son, who is already a laborer, to move into her apartment. Things don’t go well and get worse even when she returns to the place where she was born and raised. But for Leslie, who has gone from darling (toasts after the jackpot, hence the title) to social outcast (gossip around the fire, humiliation in public places), there is still the possibility of hope, which may have the face of a kind and consummate gentleman in second half of life.

Feature film debut of television director Michael Morris (episodes Better Call Saul, Shameless, Billions), written by Ryan Binaco, To Leslie revives the tradition of seventies independent cinema (John Cassavetes, naturally, but also Barbara Loden and Jerry Schatzberg), capitalizing on the correspondence between its protagonist and a landscape suspended between sadness and desolation (Texas with some decadence, anachronistic parties, timeless pubs), fits into the melancholy rhythm of country music that is heard throughout (the moment when you hear the super theme is great Are you sure Willie Nelson).

Andrea Riseborough in the movie To Leslie
Andrea Riseborough in the movie To Leslie

Andrea Riseborough in the movie To Leslie

It is as predictable in its development as it is interesting in its facts, and allows for the construction of a character study that is both detached and sensitive to a protagonist for whom no allowances are made. Dramatizing the cycle of addiction, Morris focuses on the most unpleasant and seedy aspects of Leslie, without voicing her heartbreaking realization that she is in the abyss: so she finds a wonderful balance that is more authentic than realistic, avoiding, on the one hand, becoming a freak, and on the other hand, the spectacle of the victim.

His gaze focuses on everyone around Leslie: sad, like her ex-friend Nancy (Allison Janney), devastated, like her son (Owen Teague), full of tenderness, like Sweeney (Marc Maron). It goes without saying that power, authority, power Leslie it’s all about Andrea Riseborough’s gigantic performance, which gives her body and soul, an explosion of agony and what’s left of ecstasy, and she deserves her first Oscar nomination. Highly competitive: a shrewd election campaign driven by producers and backed by stars (Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett, Jane Fonda, Kate Winslet and many others), full of comparisons with rivals, so not exactly regular by the standards of the Academy, which has launched an investigation into campaign tactics through social networks. A school incident that will live in the annals and that made a film as small as it is powerful. By the way, with a memorable ending.

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