Shortly after we are introduced to Master of Fine Arts candidate Noelle (Francesca Eastwood), she is raped by a classmate. When she confronts him the next day, he denies doing anything wrong and winds up dead in a mostly-accidental way. Somewhere during the events that caused Noelle to be a victim of sexual assault and a murder suspect, she snaps. Formerly introverted and a loner, Noelle starts going to frat parties in order to seduce and murder other rapists who, due to a faulty system, got away with their crimes.
It will not be surprising to anyone who has seen the excellent documentary The Hunting Ground (or really, anyone who has attended a post-secondary institution) that despite her school having reported no sexual assaults at all, it is all to easy for Noelle to find rapists to kill on her college’s campus as she goes full vigilante. In carrying out a series of increasingly violent kills, Noelle has no real fear of being caught even though she knows the police are closing in.
Eastwood is INTENSE in M.F.A. Like, maybe more intense than her father has ever been, and that’s saying something because that guy’s face is frozen in a permanent, angry, “Ima kill you” sneer. She is the best part of this movie and while she can’t make Noelle relatable, she keeps the audience on her side throughout the film, and that is no small feat in the face of her bloody killing spree.
M.F.A. offers an interesting twist on the typical slasher flick, and Noelle’s numerous kills are well-executed and, as is traditional in the genre, get more gory as she goes. If nothing else, M.F.A. calls attention to the conversation we all should be having, namely why so many women are being sexually assaulted on college campuses and why the colleges are in many cases turning a blind eye to the rapes, or even discouraging victims from reporting these assaults!
The scary part about M.F.A. is not Noelle, it’s that the rapists and the evil administrator who blames the victim and covers up assaults are all too real, and are on your campus, or your friend’s, or your daughter’s. We need to find an alternative solution, other than murder, so that a campus rape stops being a standard part of a Saturday night frat party, and so that when a college claims to have had zero rapes it’s not because the administration successfully intimidated and discouraged all potential complainants. No more sexual assaults should be swept under the rug. M.F.A. helps to shine a light on the problem.