Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Always Shine

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Cinema | March 29th, 2017

Sophia Takal’s sophomore feature “Always Shine” deserves a spot among the best films of 2016. Razor sharp, spellbinding, and intense, the film is too slippery to be pigeonholed in a single genre, and to call it a “psychological thriller” fails to adequately capture the scope of its ambitions.

Showcasing superb performances by leads Mackenzie Davis and Caitlin FitzGerald, “Always Shine” teases cinephiles as a boiling, bubbling metafiction: a movie about the movies and the way we watch them.

More importantly, it is a document ready to expose the ugliness of misogynist industry practices and the toll exacted by competition among women in a strange and brutal occupation.

Takal works from a script by Lawrence Michael Levine (who also appears as an actor in the film), and the one-two punch of powerfully paired opening scenes alerts the viewer to the filmmaker’s diabolical skill at upending our sense of equilibrium.

In the first, FitzGerald’s Beth auditions for what quickly appears to be another thankless role in a torturous slasher flick, concealing any reservations she might have when told the part requires extensive nudity. Then, a tight close-up on the exasperated Anna, as she defends herself against the work of an unscrupulous auto mechanic sticking her with expensive charges, rhymes with Beth’s on-camera job interview. Suddenly, everything is an act.

One of the pleasures of “Always Shine” resides in the carefully calculated manipulation of our sympathies as we try to work out which of the women to cheer and which to judge. Takal leads us in one direction only to apply a swift series of feints abetted by FitzGerald and Davis.

There are dozens of stories, and several recent movies -- including Alex Ross Perry’s sparkling “Queen of Earth” -- that use a rural getaway shared by close friends as a way to excavate jealousies and construct emotionally charged reversals. In “Always Shine,” the Big Sur setting provides Takal and cinematographer Mark Schwartzbard a plum palette to intensify the anxiety as Beth and Anna crank up their animosities.

One of the movie’s choicest scenes shows the friends running lines together, with an increasingly fierce Anna hell-bent on proving her worth as an actor and dispelling any notions that she is somehow not capable of achieving Beth’s ascendant success. The exchange indicates a turning point, and Takal pushes the vibe ever closer to something evocative of horror by way of Hitchcock.

The forthcoming ambiguities challenge the viewer to question events as they transpire, a delicious contour that obscures several seemingly critical narrative building blocks that take place in offscreen space.

Few critics have written about “Always Shine” without mentioning Ingmar Bergman’s “Persona,” and many others have noted parallels to David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive.” The comparisons are apt, and Takal stages several scenes in which the physical similarities between Beth and Anna echo the serpentine twining that thematically interlaces them in what can only be a mutually parasitic symbiosis.

Takal and Levine handily realize the one-on-one resentments arising from insecurity, possessiveness, and the humiliation of perceived injustice. That they manage to do so in the realm of both the outside world where Anna and Beth must interact with men and in the privacy of a space where only the two women exist is noteworthy.

"Always Shine" received the award for Best Narrative Feature at the 2017 Fargo Film Festival.

Recently in:

FARGO - Three days after white supremacists advertised for a like-minded gathering at Lindenwood Park, posters depicting hate speech were posted on telephone poles along downtown back alleys.The posters went up in time for the 27th…

Theresa Marshall leads Gender Friendly Grand Forks (GFGF) and is the first person I contact if someone comes to me looking for trans-related resources or support and lives near the Grand Forks area. In that regard, she’s helped a…

Thursday, April 27 at 6 PM - 9 PMDakota Medical Foundation, 4141 28th Ave. SEpisode 1- Nepal: Brings the exotic, colorful and festive Nepalese culture to you through the eyes of Nepal native Saru Pokharel. She will share her…

Editorial

Venting online

by Sabrina Hornung

“I am incredibly sorry for all that's happened. I'm young and made a mistake, and now it has caused me to walk away from my job, have incredible anxiety and guilt, and panic even going outside for the amount of death threats I've…

Would a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican kill baited bears?Since King Donald ascended to the throne of a political party that doesn’t give a damn about anything except cutting taxes and filling their own wallets, he…

The moment of truth has arrived. After seven weeks of sampling and judging some of the finest libations in the area the results for this year’s Cocktail Showdown have arrived. Christopher Larson, Raul Gomez and Sabrina Hornung…

It was rumored that Pepper’s Sports Cafe had something new to offer, something smoky and delicious. A tasty delight that could only come from a prolonged cooking process and a diverse knowledge of meat. The rumors were true, and…

Music

​Pump up the juice

by Tessa Torgeson

High Plains Reader: Jucifer is incredible and unique for so many reasons, one being your longevity as you’ve been around since the early 90s, known for your never-ending tour schedule and decibel-crushing, high octane…

[Editor’s note: Wednesday marks the 20th anniversary of the evacuation of Grand Forks and the burning of the original High Plains Reader office. This piece was originally written Tuesday April 22, 1997.]"Get up! There's water…

Nikki Anderson’s home brims with ephemera that embody her life as an artist, teacher, wife, mother, chef, survivor, and healer. A gold medal glistens in the spring sunlight hanging next to a tattered baseball cap on the coat…

Ovid’s mythological tales undergo dramatic transformation by award-winning director/playwright Mary Zimmerman as Concordia, MSUM, and NDSU deliver theatrical productions of three of her modern takes on his work.Concordia’s…

Humor

​Talking to strangers

by Sabrina Hornung

“I don’t have a tour, like, on the back of a sweatshirt,” comedian Paula Poundstone says. “I go out every weekend. This weekend I went out Friday, Saturday and Monday. Mostly it’s Friday/Saturday or Thursday through…

Spring is officially here and of course that means spring cleaning, yard work, grilling and socializing outdoors. Often this also means more time with friends or family in situations where you may want to have more than just one or…

The 11th annual Fargo Holistic Expo returns to the Fargo Civic Center this weekend, April 22 – 23, bringing with it an array of workshops, talks and exhibitors. The event is presented by Edge Life Expos and Events.Almost 40 free…

Live and Learn

​The other shoe

by HPR Contributor

By Elizabeth Nawrotnawrot@mnstate.eduI look up from my hotel lobby breakfast astonished to see a framed print of Wassily Kandinsky's "Mit und Gegen,” a masterpiece of color and composition that just happens to be my favorite…

The North Dakota State Water Commission has violated state law more than 600 times in recent years by issuing permits for industrial use of water (read: fracking oil wells) from the Little Missouri State Scenic River. Employees…