Saturday, May 18, 2024

I Saw the TV Glow - SIFF 2024 Movie Review

The Movie: I Saw the TV Glow

The Director: Jane Schoenbrun

The Cast: Justice Smith, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Ian Foreman, Helena Howard, Fred Durst, Danielle Deadwyler

The Story: Teenager Owen is just trying to make it through life in the suburbs when his classmate introduces him to a mysterious late-night TV show — a vision of a supernatural world beneath their own. In the pale glow of the television, Owen’s view of reality begins to crack.

The Rating: 7.5 / 10

The Review:
My first impression of this movie is that it's quite the mess of a production and is loosely held together by some pretty outstanding performances. I knew right off the bat that I needed to wait to write my review because the messy part was going to take some time to sort out and I felt like it would all make more sense once my brain had a chance to process everything that was shoved into it by director Jane Schoenbrun.

Now that I've reached that point, I'm still not qute sure if my brain has the ability to completely process the film although I do recognize a lot more of the intention behind the messiness and how it is going to be a very divisive movie for a lot of people. The story focuses on how we struggle to come to terms with the reality of who we are versus long standing cultural and societal norms. I love how the movie's reality is played against a fictional TV show and how Schoenbrun blurs the lines between the two more and more over the course of the story until both the characters and the viewers become totally unsure of which is more real.

While I can say I didn't enjoy the initial viewing experience of this movie, I have to admit that it's mostly because the story telling defies what is considered normal in ways that, at times, are quite brilliant and in other ways lead to what I consider to be it's primary downfalls. I feel like Schoenbrun's goal was more to make us think than to just simply entertain and I'm totally down with that from an artistic point of view. At the same time, I feel like they could have done the same thing in a more engaging way and without leaning so heavily on the actors to carry the heavy lifting.

Speaking of the actors, this is easily the best I have seen from Justice Smith and you can tell that, having come out as queer a few years ago, this is a very meangful role for them take on. On the surface, it's a very quiet performance but you can tell there is so much going on in the character's head and Schoenbrun did a great job of taking full advantage of Smith's abilities to give that type of performance. On top of that, I felt like this movie isn't nearly what it is without the amazing work put in by Brigette Lundy-Paine. It really feels like the director knew exactly who to give these two roles to and the end result is honestly quite magical.

I'm glad I waited to write this review because, like I figured, I have grown to appreciate the movie more and more for what it is rather than being disappointed because my own expectations. I would definitely recommend watching this movie so that you can take it all in and then decide for yourself the effect that it's going to have on you, just make sure to keep an open mind and expect the unexpected at every turn. This isn't a comedy, it isn't a horror movie, it isn't a romance, and it isn't a drama, at least not in the traditional sense of any of those, and yet it is also all of those things, just in a completely new and complex and creatively thought provoking way.

I fel like I'll be thinking about this movie for quite a while. Yes, it's flawed and confusing and messy but that's also what makes it so relatable because aren't we all of those things as we try to figure out and understand who we are and what our place is in the world? In that context, this movie is kind of perfect because it's nowhere near what a perfect movie is supposed to be.

To keep track of all my SIFF reviews and festival coverage please go to: TheTwoOhSix at SIFF 2024. Also, visit the official SIFF How to Fest web page for detailed info on how to make the most of your festival experience.

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