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REVIEW - Last Christmas

"Just saw a 7:00pm Thursday night show in Los Angeles. As flawed/imperfect as the film is, its quite winning due in a large part to some heavy lifting by Emilia Clarke. She’s got a real Sandra Bullock/Julia Roberts star power on full display here.-HardyofHearing

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Directors (For Sama)
Lulu Wang (The Farewell)
Ritesh Batra (Photograph)
Schmidt & Abrantes (Diamantino)
Jia Zhang-ke (Ash is Purest White)

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NYFF: "Sibyl"

by Jason Adams

Living in a big city is a great incentive to get lost in other people's stories. Just walk outside and you can see people falling in love, people falling out of love -- I once saw a couple have an insanely over-the-top meltdown banshee screaming in the middle of Sixth Avenue in the pouring rain as taxi cabs honked to pass. It's a wonderful way to distract you from yourself -- turn on the public television right at the stoop or in the subway station. And it's why lots of writers move to cities -- all that inspiration smashing you in the elbow. 

I can only imagine then what kind of a double draw, a draw squared, it would turn out to be if you were openly invited right into those people's personal dramas. What if you were both a writer and a psychotherapist, desperately trying to keep your own demons at bay at the same time?

Justine Triet's Sibyl drops its main character (an absolutely stunning Virginie Efira) down into that exact situation -- the film starts with Sibyl quitting her therapist job to finally write the book she's dreamed of; she thought she could turn away from all those outside stories and take a look around her own house for inspiration. But she shrinks, pun intended, from that pain fast. Other people are more colorful anyway, right?

It certainly seems that way at first, as Sibyl quickly decides to take on one new client -- an actress named Margot (Adèle Exarchopoulos) prone to melodrama and sobbing, so much sobbing, who's having a doomed affair with her latest co-star (Gaspard Ulliel, summoning all the perfume commercial sleaze he can summon) who also happens to be married to their director (Sandra Hüller, fabulously hysterical). Sibyl practically runs head-first into Margot's twisty predicaments, even as her own personal disasters involving broken relationships and alcoholism keep bobbing up for attention... but no, it's Margot who's the movie star, it's Margot who's got the crazy big stories to tell... isn't it? 

There's some vivid farce played out as Sibyl bluntly inserts herself into these other people's crazy big stories with full forced blinders on -- she's not dumb, she sure knows better, but the second she even glances back at her own house everything seems to burst into flames so it's better to aim the flames outwards probably, for just this moment. Anyway Triet and Efira somehow manage to make this meltdown in the middle of Sixth Avenue beautiful and moving and surprisingly sexy; funny when it needs to be but also entirely serious about Sibyl's stuff. And Sibyl's got some stuff. Some big crazy stuff. You'll see.

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Reader Comments (1)

I was intrigued by the cast, but this review has made this a must-see!

October 3, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDame James

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