With all the elements on hand to achieve something of note, The Starling disappointingly reduces the complexity of loss, grief and forgiveness into a birdbrained fairy tale that is more than happy to bypass reality in order to make a featherlight point.
Early on, the self-deprecating stuff takes on a studied air, and in the final stretch, the filmmakers seem to think they can shock-cut and rug-pull their way into something resembling psychological horror. The weirdness isn’t really weird enough to pull this off; it’s all the self-indulgence without much oddball pleasure.
Between sufficient scares and a puzzling yet promising narrative that takes shape in a wild fever that matches the intensity of the nearly feral antagonist, the story is vast and threaded smartly into a wearable piece of dread. The more granular writing, however, can be lackluster and the dialogue comes off cringeworthy in several spots.
Duplass and Morales play their parts with honesty and grace; they write those parts and the drama between them with straightforward understanding of the complications of remote associations, and the total package is then presented straightforwardly. There’s no other way for screenlife to present itself. But the film loses nothing in that straightforwardness, neither authenticity nor humanity nor Morales’ appeal as an actress-turned-multihyphenate.
It would be a stretch to call Kate a modern Western, but it has a certain gunslinger sensibility that mitigates any self-conscious edginess. There’s even a modicum of poignancy as Winstead fights her personal battle through increasing bodily disrepair. Despite the existence of so many movies like it, Kate tires you out on its own terms.
A story that could truly individualize a massive, era-defining tragedy. In this telling, however, you’ll follow the plot and shed some appropriate tears, but if you come away feeling cheap, you won’t be alone.
Like RaMell Ross’s Hale County This Morning, This Evening, Faya Dayi wanders lovely, liminal spaces between narrative and fairytale, between documentary film and something looser, something personally vérité.
No Man of God ultimately benefits from a woman helming a story about Bundy, as it provides nuance to even the ancillary female presence in the killer’s circle, particularly when he actually confessed to his deeply misogynistic crimes.