‘Villains’ Flips the Home Invasion Thriller Script Over and Over Again

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CREDIT: Anna Kooris

Starring: Maika Monroe, Bill Skarsgård, Jeffrey Donovan, Kyra Sedgwick, Blake Baumgartner

Directors: Dan Berk and Robert Olsen

Running Time: 88 Minutes

Rating: R for Gunfire, Bloody Whacks on the Head, and Resourceful Cocaine Use

Release Date: September 20, 2019 (Limited)

Don’t you just hate it when you’re a criminal on the run and you break into a house and then it turns out that the homeowners are much more devious than you are? This seems to happen relatively often in the movies, but perhaps less so in real life. I certainly would not want to participate myself, both because breaking and entering is illegal and because it can be quite creepy to walk around an unfamiliar house. But I am perfectly happy to watch others do it, and the latest example why is Villains.

This bloody little black comedy thriller stars Maika Monroe and Bill Skarsgård as Mickey and Jules, a couple whose love is strong and tender enough to overcome the stress of covering up their crimes. It’s a neat trick that they pull off with their performances, wherein they get us to root for them by consistently reminding us of their humanity without ever asking us to excuse their convenience store robbery in the opening scene. It certainly doesn’t hurt how much they stand in contrast to Jeffrey Donovan and Kyra Sedgwick’s George and Gloria, a couple whose efforts to craft the perfect genteel dollhouse-style home has led them to kidnap a little girl (Blake Baumgartner, who played a young Nicole Fosse in Fosse/Verdon) and chain her up in their basement. Mickey and Jules’ efforts to escape this predicament while negotiating an uneasy truce with George and Gloria makes for an economical little battle of wits (as well as an occasionally physical battle) that will have you constantly puzzling out (along with the character)s what the best course of action is.

Villains is Recommended If You Like: Don’t Breathe, Ready or Not, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

Grade: 3 out of 5 Negotiations

This Is a Movie Review: The Edge of Seventeen

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This review was originally published on News Cult in November 2016.

Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick

Director: Kelly Fremon Craig

Running Time: 99 Minutes

Rating: R, But It Should Really Be PG-13 Because We Should Be More Comfortable with the Fact That Teens Are Sexual Creatures

Release Date: November 18, 2016

Some of the most memorable moments of The Edge of Seventeen remind me of RuPaul’s Drag Race, specifically the reality show’s “Reading is Fundamental” segments (which were in turn inspired by the drag ball documentary Paris Is Burning). “Reading” is basically insult comedy, with everyone in the room taking turns as insulter and insulted – so, you know, a roast, but the drag queen version, i.e., bitchier and wittier. But there is also a sense of perfecting one’s craft and being there to support each other. Much of Edge of Seventeen’s dialogue has this acidic streak, even though every character is fundamentally on one another’s side. Woody Harrelson at one point informs our heroine Hailee Steinfeld, “Maybe nobody likes you” – despite being her closest confidante and that line being part of a pep talk to raise her spirits.

Everything starts falling apart right from the start when high school junior Nadine (Steinfeld) discovers her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) hooking up with her brother Darian (Blake Jenner). Nadine declares that Krista must choose between her and Darian; Krista refuses to play along, but Nadine is so stubborn and thus she suddenly finds herself friendless. It is hard for me to relate to this type of conflict, because if one of my siblings started dating one of my best friends, I would be thrilled! They might officially become part of my family! (That specific argument is actually made to Nadine.)

However, I do realize that not all brothers and sisters get along that well. But what is maddening is that as much Nadine frustrates Darian, he clearly wants a good relationship with her. The source of this friction is possibly the death of their father five years earlier. It is implied that Nadine feels alienated from her brother and her exhausted mother (Kyra Sedgwick) because of their different methods for handling grief. She also may be suffering from depression or anxiety, which does not make her self-centeredness any less maddening, but at least it makes more understandable.

I am a little torn about how to assess Edge of Seventeen. Nadine is a supremely frustrating character, constantly making hurtful decisions when she intellectually must know better. But she is also easy to fall for. Part of that is because she is played by the guileless but fierce Steinfeld. A bigger part is the fact that when she actually does realize there are other people who have experienced pain she like has, she becomes a fun person to open up to. I may have to catch a few re-watches at home over the next several years to cement this as a classic, but for now it at least undoubtedly has my attention.

The Edge of Seventeen is Recommended If You LikeCluelessSilver Linings Playbook, Teenagers Played by Actual Teenagers and One Token 30-Year-Old

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Accidental Sexts