TO LESLIE (2022)

Genre: Drama
Director: Michael Morris
Cast: Andrea Riseborough, Owen Teague, Marc Maron, Andre Royo, Allison Janney
Runtime: 2 hrs
Rating: NC16 (Coarse Language and Some Drug Use)
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Official Website: 

Opening Day: 9 March 2023

Synopsis: Nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role for the 2023 Academy Awards(r) - Leslie (Andrea Riseborough) is a West Texas single mother struggling to provide for her son (Owen Teague) when she wins the lottery and a chance at a good life. But a few short years later the money is gone and Leslie is on her own, living hard and fast at the bottom of a bottle as she runs from the world of heartbreak she left behind. With her charm running out and with nowhere to go, Leslie is forced to return home to her former friends Nancy and Dutch (Allison Janney, Stephen Root). Unwelcome and unwanted by those she wronged, it's a lonely motel clerk named Sweeney (Marc Maron) who takes a chance when no one else will. With his support, Leslie comes face to face with the consequences of her actions, a life of regret, and a second chance to make a good life for her and her son. 

Movie Review:

One wonders whether this film would have gotten so much attention (or would have even been picked up on release on our shores) if it wasn’t for the controversy around it. It’s not your usual scandal or criminal kind of scandal, but the unique nature of the news surrounding this title was enough for people to pay attention.

If you haven’t heard, the lead actress of this independent production, Andrea Riseborough received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress. Unlike the bigger titles that would get love at major awards, this film did not run a advertising driven campaign. Instead, a campaign backed by celebrities was executed. Director Michael Morris and his wife, actress Mary McCormack, got friends and colleagues in the industry to watch the film and spread the word. Notable personalities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Amy Adams praised Riseborough’s performance. One thing led to another, and Riseborough’s name was one of the five announced on nomination day.

To make the story even more dramatic, the Academyof Motion Picture Artsand Sciences conducted a review of the campaign procedures around this year’s nominees. The result? The Academy pledged to address social media and outreach campaigning tactics which they said caused concern, but confirmed that Riseborough's nomination would be retained.

So was Riseborough's performance worthy of a nomination? Who are we to say? But as someone who has seen his fair share of movies, it is a raw and powerful delivery that will keep your eyes glued to the screen.

The 41 year old actress plays Leslie, a single mother who had her fair share of good luck when she won the lottery. The money was spent and no thanks to her alcohol addiction, Leslie’s life hits rock bottom and things get worse when she is turned away by her son (Owen Teague) and friends (Allison Janney, Stephen Root). We don’t blame these people, because Leslie really seems to be beyond redemption, and her character isn’t one that you can empathise with.

Leslie next meets a motel owner (Marc Maron), a lonely man who is willing to give her a chance to be good. Does Leslie ruin the opportunity? You bet she does, and that’s really when you don’t see any good in this woman at all. When she goes to the bar and wreaks havoc, then returns to her benefactor to say she is sorry, there really aren’t any redeeming qualities to the character at all.

Maybe this is what has made Riseborough one of the five women who has made it to Hollywood’s biggest party. Her downtrodden portrait of an individual who has been consumed by alcohol is a painful to watch, but it is also heartbreaking to anticipate what will eventually become of the character.

As the 120 minute movie progresses, you can’t tell how the story written by Ryan Binaco is going to conclude. Is there even more devastation coming, as Leslie is given yet another chance when she gets a grip and begins operating a new diner near the motel? Or will the film end on a happy note? Mixed emotions will run through your mind, especially seeing how Leslie has repeatedly disappointed the people around her. But at this point, you also begin wondering whether life (and you as a viewer) has been too cruelly harsh to her. Regardless, Riseborough’s commitment in bringing the character to life is highly laudable.

Movie Rating:

(The film may be a downer with its grim storyline and unlikeable protagonist, but Andrea Riseboroug's portrayal of a woman who has hit rock bottom in life deserves our attention)

Review by John Li


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