Jordan Horowitz

Fast Color (2018, Julia Hart)

Fast Color spends most its runtime saying it’s not a superhero movie—it’s just about people who happen to have superpowers—only for the third act to play like a low budget X-Men outing. And it’s not just the not-battle-in-the-streets battle-in-the-street resolution, it’s also how lead Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s character arc becomes all about her superpowers and not her returning to her abandoned home, abandoned mother (Lorraine Toussaint), and abandoned tween daughter (Saniyya Sidney). It’s also not about how Mbatha-Raw’s gotten sober—drugs help keep her out-of-control powers in check—or how the world hasn’t had rain in the last seven or eight years. There’s a lot going on in the world of Fast Color and director Hart does a great job showing its more mundane side—utilizing the limited budget well—but engaging with the superhero movie tropes after promising to avoid them… it doesn’t undue the work of the film through most of its runtime, but it does leave the potential unrealized.

For instance, just when Mbatha-Raw and Sidney could be really connecting, the film concentrates on the superpowers. And it doesn’t even go all the way with the superpowers. It doesn’t just not show them, it doesn’t show their effect on anyone, so it’s like they’re not even there. Sorry, Fast Color’s finish is about the only disappointing thing in the film (as it compounds the problems with Toussaint’s part). Hence the harping.

The film opens with Mbatha-Raw on the run. She’s got some kind of earthquake power, which she can’t control at all but she at least tries to mitigate the damage. Water is an expensive item because of the lack of rain fall, but there’s still booze, eggs, electricity, all sorts of things just no smartphones. The whole no more rain subplot is fine but doesn’t add anything to the film. It mostly ends up serving as a budget limiter; so fine. But just fine.

Pretty soon we discover nerdy government scientist Christopher Denham is after Mbatha-Raw but also she’s gotten to her hometown, which he doesn’t realize. So she goes to mom Toussaint’s farm, even though Mbatha-Raw’s never met Sidney and Sidney doesn’t have any expectation of ever meeting Mbatha-Raw and then Toussaint makes Mbatha-Raw sleep out in the barn because her powers are so out-of-control. The film never directly addresses how Mbatha-Raw’s terrible life, on the run but also before, instead focusing on what she can do to improve her footprint, which is fine because it centers itself around Sidney’s well-being. Mbatha-Raw’s motivations and thoughts play out in her expressions versus actions or dialogue. She’s haunted by flashback sequences too. Mbatha-Raw gives an excellent lead performance but her part isn’t really enough the lead as far as the plot goes.

Most of the film is about what’s going to happen without raising much expectation. David Strathairn plays the local sheriff who’s also on Mbatha-Raw’s trail, trying not to let Denham and the feds take his case. Given how much the film ends up leveraging Strathairn, at the expense of other characters (and their actors), it’d have been nice if Strathairn weren’t involved in one of Fast Colors big secrets. The film has a lot of big secrets—well, either secrets or lies, because Toussaint wants to keep Sidney sheltered. See, Toussaint and Sidney also have powers, but they’re not as potentially damaging or affecting as Mbatha-Raw’s. When Mbatha-Raw bonds with Sidney, it’s over the powers, which is weird but the acting’s good—Sidney’s phenomenal—so Color can do whatever it wants as long as it stays focused on the characters.

The end abandons that focus and… the film suffers.

Technically, the film’s outstanding. Save the occasionally too DV night time photography. Many of photographer Michael Fimognari’s night time shots are fantastic, but when there’s a lot of movement on the screen… it looks off. Martin Pensa’s editing is good, Rob Simonsen’s music is good, Hart’s direction is good… Fast Color’s got all the pieces—well, okay, not Denham (who’s way too eh)—the script just doesn’t quite get them assembled right at the end.

The film gives Mbatha-Raw a solid lead, Sidney an okay supporting showcase (Sidney could handle more), and Toussaint a disappointing one. The film utilizes her but doesn’t showcase her, which really hurts in the third act.

Fast Color’s successful without exactly being a success.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Julia Hart; written by Hart and Jordan Horowitz; director of photography, Michael Fimognari; edited by Martin Pensa; music by Rob Simonsen; production designer, Gae S. Buckley; produced by Horowitz, Mickey Liddell, and Pete Shilaimon; released by Lionsgate.

Starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Ruth), Lorraine Toussaint (Bo), Saniyya Sidney (Lila), Christopher Denham (Bill), and David Strathairn (Ellis).


Meet Monica Velour (2010, Keith Bearden)

In the listless younger man, experienced older woman genre, Meet Monica Velour is a painfully obvious modernization (the older woman is a former porn star, the younger man is an… avid fan). I use the ellipses because Meet Monica Velour’s protagonist is the finest example of the stalkers of the eighties growing up to be the leading men of today (which There’s Something About Mary proudly started).

The lead of Monica Velour is Dustin Ingram who does not look seventeen, even if he was nineteen shooting the film. He’s also not very good. When the film’s about him being this awkward youth (he lives with grandfather Brian Dennehy), the film’s really weak. Bearden fails to properly establish Dennehy as the grandfather, instead making one wonder why the kid’s calling his dad “Pop Pop.” It’s also unclear the kid’s a kid. The high school graduation scene seems out of place.

But Bearden’s casting of Jee Young Han as the object of Ingram’s affection is interesting, as she’s not a skinny beauty queen.

Velour gets consequential once Kim Cattrall arrives (as the titular character). She gives a stunning performance; I never thought Cattrall had the ability she shows here. Every line delivery is revelatory.

Great supporting (glorified cameo) from Keith David, who should have been in it more. The same goes for Dennehy.

Bearden doesn’t seem to have realized the lead role needed to be someone besides a boring kid (especially one played by Ingram).

But Cattrall’s performance makes Velour significant.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Keith Bearden; director of photography, Masanobu Takayanagi; edited by Naomi Geraghty; music by Andrew Hollander; production designer, Lou A. Trabbie III; produced by Gary Gilbert and Jordan Horowitz; released by Anchor Bay Films.

Starring Kim Cattrall (Linda), Dustin Ingram (Tobe), Sam McMurray (Ronnie), Tony Cox (Club Owner), Jee Young Han (Amanda), Daniel Yelsky (Kenny), Keith David (Claude) and Brian Dennehy (Pop Pop).


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