Madeline’s Madeline (2018)

Madeline’s Madeline
Director: Josephine Decker
Writer: Josephine Decker, Donna di Novelli
Cast: Helena Howard, Miranda July, Molly Parker, Okwui Okpokwasili, Julee Cerda, Sunita Mani, Felipe Bonilla, Lisa Tharps, Curtiss Cook, Reynaldo Piniella
Part of: FrauenFilmTage
Seen on: 5.3.2019

Madeline (Helena Howard) is part of an improv theater group, currently working on a production of Three Little Piggies under Evangeline’s (Molly Parker) direction. Madeline gets along very well with Evangeline and not so much with her own mother Regina (Miranda July). When she has a dream about hurting Regina, Madeline confides in Evangeline. Evangeline feels inspired by Madeline’s problems and starts using her life for the theater group, even roping in Regina.

Madeline’s Madeline was the only film I managed to see at the FrauenFilmTage this year, and then only a 9.30pm-on-a-weekday screening was possible for me. But I wanted to see the film so much, that I braved that screening anyway. And even though I regrettably fell asleep for some of it (not the film’s fault at all), I managed to see most of it and the parts I did see where absolutely fantastic.

The film poster showing Evangeline (Molly Parker), Madeline (Helena Howard) and Regina (Miranda July) poking their heads through a red curtain. Around them several (much smaller) people can be seen on stage clouds, floating around them.

Helena Howard is quite a discovery. Her performance in this film is absolutely impeccable and incredible. I felt like my jaw was on the floor most of time watching her. The other actors in the film – above all July and Parker – were really good, too, but Howard really takes the film and runs with it.

The strength of Howard’s performance alone would have made you sit up and pay attention to the film. But it’s not all that Madeline’s Madeline has to offer. I loved how Decker approached the theater group and their work. The way this was set in scene was really interesting and very engaging.

Madeline (Helena Howard) on stage, wearing a pig mask as a hat.

The cinematography wasn’t very traditional which meant that it called attention to itself. Not as easy to watch as the usual stuff, but also very creative and very fitting for the film and its themes. Another highlight was also the film’s soundscape – perfectly mixed and with a great soundtrack.

It’s not the first time that I fell asleep while watching a movie at the cinema, and it probably won’t be the last. But often, I don’t mind it that much – when the film moves along familiar paths or I just don’t like it a whole lot. For Madeline’s Madeline, it’s the exact opposite, and I hope that I can watch it again without exhaustion and all the way through. The film absolutely deserves it.

Madeline (Helena Howard) sitting in the audience, watching attentively.

Summarizing: excellent.

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