Tag Archives: Sosie Bacon

Why So Serious?


by Hope Madden and George Wolf

Man, It Follows was a great movie. It was a film that saw coming-of-age as its own type of horror, a loss of innocence that you either pass on or let kill you.

It’s a conceit that will never feel as fresh as it did then, but writer/director Parker Finn has a go with Smile.

Sosie Bacon is Dr. Rose Cotter, a therapist working in an emergency trauma unit. A woman is brought in, lashed to a gurney and screaming. Rose evaluates her in a safe space where Laura (Caitlin Stasey) can be comfortable, free. Rose listens to her paranoid, anxious story of a smiling, malevolent presence and tells Laura, as calmly as she can, that as scary as these ideas may feel, they can’t harm her.

Rose is wrong. And so begins a very borrowed and yet often powerful meditation on the nature of trauma and the state of mental health stigma.

Bacon delivers a believably brittle performance as the character who knows she’s right, even if everyone believes she’s crazy. But there’s more to this genre trope, given that Finn’s entire theme is an exploration of mental health. As a therapist and also a woman suffering from trauma, Rose can see her current situation more clearly than most.

There’s honesty, depth and empathy at work here, a 360-degree look at mental health and the systems and norms that affect people. Smile is also a clear metaphor for trauma and its insidious ripple effect.

It’s also a showcase for a fine supporting cast, and a few good, if borrowed, jump scares and freaky images. Kyle Gallner is particularly solid, and both Robin Weigert and Rob Morgan deliver traumatizing performances in small roles.

Turning something as inherently harmless as a smile into a threatening gesture carries a primal creepiness that Finn exploits pretty effectively throughout the film. Even so, the nearly two-hour running time feels bloated as Rose’s search for the origins of her curse begins to drag.

Her detective work – plus one very familiar shot – make Smile an easily recognizable marriage of It Follows and The Ring. Credit Finn for not hiding his intentions, and crafting some thought-provoking frights in the process.

Charlie’s Angels

Charlie Says

by Hope Madden

It’s been 50 years since Charles Manson and his family effectively terminated the 1960s. Filmmaker Mary Harron (American Psycho) joins Daniel Farrands and Quentin Tarantino in commemorating the anniversary.

Earlier this year, Farrands unleashed the grim and quickly forgotten The Haunting of Sharon Tate, while Tarantino’s next likely cultural phenomenon, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,  promises to shine some of its spotlight on the Manson family crimes as well.

Harron’s film, Charlie Says, follows Leslie Van Houton (Hannah Murray), Susan Atkins (Marianne Rendon) and Patricia Krenwinkle (Sosie Bacon), three years after their incarceration, as they reflect on Manson’s promises and their own actions.

The aptly titled film is as concerned with the women’s brainwashing as it is the crimes themselves, although it unfortunately provides no real insight into either.

Harron spends about half the film in the California Women’s Correctional Facility, where the trio is taught by dedicated grad student Karlene Faith (Merritt Wever, portraying the author of the book that inspires the film).

The eerie chorus of “Charlie says…” greets nearly every question Wever lobs at her students, which generally spurs a flashback to time on the ranch with Charlie (Matt Smith).

Here we hit a snag, because Smith lacks the charisma, the hatred, the ugliness or the psychotic aura to pull of Manson. He is never terrifying, never seductive—never convincing.

In fact, most of the flock lacks the weather beaten conviction we recognize from police tapes. The period detail and tone lack degrees of authenticity as well.

Harron’s film opens strong, but it quickly loses its footing and never really finds it again. Working from Guinevere Turner’s screenplay, Harron brings up some interesting themes—particularly questioning the point of breaking through to these women, knowing that puncturing their fantasies only means their clear-eyed horror whether looking backward or forward.

But she doesn’t really land any punches. The film never feels particularly queasying, especially enlightening or even very memorable.

I guess we still have Tarantino. Or maybe it’s just time we all moved on and stopped obsessing over what Charlie had to say.