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Tribeca 2017: "Sweet Virginia" 

Nathaniel R reporting from the Tribeca Film Festival

Christopher Abbott and Jon Bernthal develop an awkward friendship in "Sweet Virginia"

Sweet Virginia begins with an unnerving burst of violence in the bar of a small Alaskan town. Initially the carnage and resulting grief feels as senseless as all violence does. What a world. But this being a slow burn neo-noir, we know from rich movie history that the killings won't prove to be random. Caught up in the aftermath of the crime are two newly widowed women (Imogen Poots and Rosemarie DeWitt) who aren't as grief stricken as they should be, the non-local murderer (Christopher Abbott) who decides to hole up in town for a bit, and the owner of the local motel "Sweet Virginia," a retired rodeo champ (Jon Bernthal) who, as it turns out, has been carrying on an affair with the widow for years prior to the picture...

Though the festival guide likens Sweet Virginia to an early Coen Bros thriller, that reference point isn't quite apt. Or, rather, that reference point creates expectations that the movie can't deliver on. For one thing Sweet Virginia lacks the humor that is usually laced through even serious Coen Bros pictures and it also reminds you that the Coen brothers are a very difficult act to follow. Nevertheless, sophomore director Jamie M Dagg is surely a talent to watch. If his career gets big, this picture will surely become a reference point. Though Sweet Virginia's slow simmer doesn't ever reach a full boil, Dagg knows how to keep the heat on (the appropriately brooding cinematography by Jessica Lee Gagné's helps). If the tightening screws don't quite result in a vise-like squeeze, Dagg's direction still has "grip" if you will. The picture also benefits from a deft deployment of its actors' talents. Christopher Abbott ably projects a sociopathic "off"ness even in scenes where he literally means no harm. Jon Bernthal is at his most character-specific (and hirsute!) yet subdued and his chemistry with Rosemarie DeWitt reads as totally authentic. Their strong handsome noses and similar solidity of character make for an unexpectedly sexy screen union; they just feel right together. Can we see them paired in another picture soon? Please and thanks.

Sweet Virginia plays Tribeca tonight at 7:00 PM Thur (4/27) 

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Reader Comments (1)

Jon Bernthal has a very interesting face-he could play Aaron Hernandez if they ever do the movie or the Special Victim Units episode

April 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

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