Tag Archives: John Ortiz

Horse Girl

Sarah (Alison Brie) is a socially awkward woman who never really grew out of her girlhood horse phase. It’s clear to everyone but her that she’s not really welcome at the stables anymore, but she visits her old horse Willow even more diligently than she visits her childhood friend who was injured in a riding accident.

But horses are the least of Sarah’s problems. She’s a sleepwalker and she’s finding that her troubling lucid dreams are starting to leak into her waking life. She’s losing time, finding her body bruised, and since she’s a big fan of supernatural shows, she’s prone to those kinds of explanations. Is she a clone? An alien abductee?

And what’s really interesting is when she meets a guy and he had to decide if he’s horny enough to put up with her crazy. Because it’s clear that her mental health is deteriorating. Whereas before she seemed quirky if cringy, now her behaviour is getting harder to ignore or excuse. Her boss Joan (Molly Shannon) hardly knows how to help her but she doesn’t have many other non-equine friends.

As things fall apart, so does the narrative structure of the film. It’s clear Sarah has been an unreliable narrator, but for how long? What’s real? We doubt ourselves and her story far more than she does.

The very talented Alison Brie produces and is co-writer as well; she owns this story because she has created it, crafted it. Sarah slides down a slippery slope, and the descent is gives Brie a chance to show a muscularity in her performance that we haven’t seen before.

I wish the film were a little more sure of itself. Director Jeff Baena is reluctant to come down on one side or the other but the ambiguity starts to wear thin and push the bounds of credibility. It was thoughtfulness and sensitivity that pulled us in, and we lose a bit of that toward the end. Horse Girl is for an audience comfortable with oddball films and open endings.

A Woman, A Part

Maggie Siff (Sons of Anarchy) plays Anna, a woman who wanted nothing more than to become an actress all of her life, and left her friends in the lurch in order to pursue her dreams. Now a successful TV actress, she hates her life. She’s disillusioned with her career. She wants out. But her contract says 5 more years. Burned out, she retreats to the last place she really felt engaged: New York City, where her friends have moved on and her famous face isn’t quite welcome.

It turns out that things are a little more complicated than she imagined: Oscar a_woman_a_part_john_ortiz_maggie_siff_cara_seymour_photo_by_chris_dapkins(John Ortiz), an ex lover, is married with a kid, though his relationship isn’t rock solid. He’s excited to have Anna around again, but you wonder if it’s real friendship he’s after, or the attention she can bring to his flagging career. A play wright, he’s got one ace in the whole: a new script he’s developed that revolves around a character that very closely (and unflatteringly) resembles Anna. Kate (Cara Seymour) is more reluctant to see her old friend. Is it because of the betrayal, or something else?

These three make a very complex and compelling little story that unfolds around more general themes of addiction, gentrification, sexism, burnout, and friendship.

Director Elisabeth Subrin’s appropriately looks at women in the entertainment industry, and the demands and expectations that constrain them. As the title suggests, Anna is not merely the part she plays, but seems to have trouble extricating herself from that notion. Who is she outside of Hollywood? A simple change in geography is clearly not the answer.

A Woman, A Part works best as a critique of the film industry, a theme that resonates all the more when you factor in Siff’s own most famous role (as the a-woman-a-partgirlfriend on Sons of Anarchy), which registers a double impact for every blow the film lands. Literally seen swimming amid a sea of scripts containing empty female parts, Siff is every female actress of a certain age searching for meaningful work. Anna’s opposite, Nadia (Dagmara Dominczyk), has given up her own work to be the rock of her family; her husband, Oscar, depends on her to be the stable one at home. But Nadia doesn’t want to be the rock anymore – “the rock is boring” she says, a line many of you will want to high-five because women are more than just someone else’s support (note to Jax!).

There are no big dramatics here, but a respect for the characters and their flaws, and the space for some talented actors to showcase those nuances. It’s a small film that explores not just Gender as a general theme but on an intimate scale as one woman tests her own self-perception.