Tag Archives: Joshua Leonard

Baby Blues

Fully Realized Humans

by Brandon Thomas

I don’t have children, but that doesn’t mean I don’t understand the hardships that come with parenthood. You’re no longer living just for yourself. There’s now this little person who relies on you for their survival, and that has to be a daunting feeling. It gives me existential dread to even think about. Fully Realized Humans provides a charming, funny and honest look at the freakouts that come with being soon-to-be parents 

Jackie (Jess Wiexler, Teeth) and Elliot (Joshua Leonard, The Blair Witch Project) are weeks away from becoming first-time parents. After their baby shower nearly goes off the rails with mentions of crib death and vaginal ripping, the two are faced with the reality that their lives are about to get much more complex and scary. Insecurities and a lot of “What ifs…” bubble to the surface as the couple tries to navigate feelings of inadequacy before their child enters the world. 

The success or failure of Fully Realized Humans hinges on the relationship between Jackie and Elliot. If the chemistry between those two doesn’t work then the movie is toast. Luckily, Wiexler and Leonard have incredible chemistry, making them one of the most charming on-screen couples in recent memory. The two actors bounce off one another naturally. It’s the kind of work that helps the audience settle in and get comfortable with these people from the get-go.

A lot of the fun of Fully Realized Humans is how Jackie and Elliot’s insecurities lead them into some real out-of-left-field situations. There’s an extended sequence that begins with the couple experimenting in the bedroom, and ends with Elliot getting punched for the first time to “reclaim” his manhood. The natural progression of these comedic beats speaks to the cleverness of Leonard and Wiexler’s screenplay.

Leonard, who directed the film and co-wrote it with Wiexler, wisely leaves melodrama out of the equation. At its core, Fully Realized Humans is a silly comedy, yes, but that doesn’t mean it also can’t comment on serious topics and emotions. There’s a deftness to the tone management that lets the film successfully walk a tightrope.

There aren’t any major surprises in Fully Realized Humans, and to be honest, it’s a topic a lot of movies have already covered. However, what many of those other movies didn’t do was craft such enjoyable characters. Jackie and Elliot might not end up being the world’s perfect parents, but these are two characters I’d gladly spend another 90 minutes with.

Born Again


by Hope Madden

It is tough to find a fresh direction to take fiction published 201 years ago, let alone a tale already made into countless films. Is there a new way—or reason—to look at the Frankenstein fable?

Writer/director/horror favorite Larry Fessenden thinks so. He tackles the myth, as well as a culture of greed and toxic masculinity, with his latest, Depraved.

Adam (a deeply sympathetic Alex Breaux) is kind of an act of catharsis for Henry (David Call). A PTSD-suffering combat medic, Henry is so interested in finding a way to bring battlefield fatalities back to life that he doesn’t even question where his Big Pharma partner Polidori (Joshua Leonard, in another excellent genre turn) gets his pieces and parts.

Here’s a question that’s plagued me since I read Shelley’s text in 8th grade. Why take parts of cadavers? Why not bring one whole dude back and save all that time and stitching effort? Frank  Henenlotter (Frankenhooker) and Lucky McKee (May) found answers to that question. Fessenden isn’t worried about it.

He’s more interested in illuminating the way a culture is represented in its offspring. Pour all your own ugly tendencies, insecurities and selfish behaviors into your creation and see what that gets you.

Fessenden isn’t subtle about the problems he sees in society, nor vague about their causes. Depraved is the latest in a host of genre films pointing fingers at the specific folks who have had the power to cause all the problems that are now coming back to bite us in the ass.

It’s the white guys with money because, well, because it is.

Along with Leonard’s oily approach and Breaux’s tenderness, the film boasts solid supporting work from Chloe Levine (The Transfiguration, Ranger) and especially Addison Timlin, who is great in a very small role.

There is a sloppy subtext here, charming in its refusal to be tidy, about the man Adam used to be (or one of them), the girl he didn’t really appreciate, and the way, deep down, a mildly douchy guy can learn a lesson about self-sacrifice.

In its own cynical way, Depraved does offer a glimmer of hope for mankind. Fessenden doesn’t revolutionize the genre or say anything new, though, but you won’t leave the film wishing Shelley’s beast would just stay dead.

Unsafe House


by Hope Madden

Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) is living your worst nightmare.

Having recently moved 400 miles from Boston to suburban Pennsylvania to escape her stalker, she begins seeing him everywhere. Shaken and without a support network, she visits an insurance-approved therapist in a nearby clinic.

She’s grateful for the ear, but upon completing her paperwork Sawyer finds that, due to the therapist’s diagnosis that Sawyer is a danger to herself or others, she is held involuntarily for 24 hours.

After punching an orderly she mistakes for her stalker, that 24 hours turns into one week. And now she’s convinced that the new orderly George is, in fact, her stalker David (Joshua Leonard—you know, doomed Josh from The Blair Witch Project!).

There a number of factors hard at work in Unsane‘s brisk 98-minute ride. Director Steven Soderbergh, by way of Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer’s script, lays bare some terrifying facts about our privatized mental health industry.

Seriously and deeply alarming.

He structures this critique with a somewhat traditional is-she-or-isn’t-she-crazy storyline. Anyone who watches much horror will recognize that uneasy line: you may be here against your will, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be here.

And the seasoned director of misdirection knows how to toy with that notion, how to employ Sawyer’s very real damage, touch on her raw nerve of struggling to remain in control of her own life only to have another’s will forced upon her.

Part of the film’s success is Soderbergh’s ability to put you in Sawyer’s headspace, which he does primarily through the use of iPhone 7. He claims to have filmed entirely on these phones, and whether or not that’s true, the shallow, oversaturated aesthetic creates the sense of delusion.

Foy’s performance is refreshingly unpleasant. Sawyer is tough to like, but she’s damaged and savvy in a way that feels authentic.

Leonard’s cloying neediness and bursts of violence match Foy’s formidable if brittle performance and a strong supporting cast including Juno Temple, SNL’s Jay Pharoah, Amy Irving and a spot-on Polly McKie.

Soderbergh relies on familiar tropes to say something relevant and in doing so creates a tidy, satisfying thriller.