All Who Wander

Cora Bora

by Hope Madden

“Cora, I don’t need you to fix it, I just need you to not break anything else.”

We’ve all had those friends. Some of us have been those friends. Director Hannah Pearl Utt’s generous and forgiving film Cora Bora—with a huge lift from a remarkable lead performance—empathizes with both sides.

Megan Stalter is Cora, and she is clearly delusional. She’s living in LA, playing her acoustic guitar and singing to sparce crowds at open mics and coffee shops; hitting parties where food, cocktails and pot might be on hand and free; and looking for hookups, despite her girlfriend Justine (Jojo T. Gibbs) back in Portland. But it’s OK because they have an open relationship. Although, since Justine isn’t returning calls much, maybe she’s using their “open” relationship to actually start another relationship.

Cora better plan a surprise trip home to double check.

Stalter is a perfect mix of vulnerability and avoidance, her performance never spinning into broad comedy that would lampoon the underlying pain Cora is dealing with. Rhianon Jones’s script wisely suggests that Cora’s behavior is not entirely new, but tremendously amplified since a tragedy hinted at but never belabored. This allows Stalter to be reasonably ridiculous—her actions becoming  “I can’t believe she did that!” in a way that  you do, indeed, kind of believe.

It’s the type of character the Clevelander has honed throughout her career as a comic, but it’s her skill as an actor that allows this to stretch to feature length without wearing out its welcome.

A nimble supporting cast, including Ayden Mayeri and Manny Jacinto in meaty roles and Chelsea Peretti and Darrell Hammond in fun cameos, offer ample opportunity for Stalter to draw you in to Cora’s chaos.

A number of plot threads feel pretty convenient and the resolution of Cora’s arc feels a bit like a cheat, but at no point does Cora Bora lose your interest. And when the time comes for Stalter to prove her dramatic mettle, she more than impresses.

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