Woman under the influence

For his acclaimed, awardwinning debut feature Krisha, writer/producer/editor/director Trey Edward Shults has expanded his 2014 short by taking the familiar storyline about a dysfunctional family’s Thanksgiving dinner, then grafts elements and shading that echo, sometimes rather loudly, selected works by Robert Altman, John Cassavetes and Woody Allen – which certainly indicates high aspirations, a good many of which Shults achieves.

Much of the film’s dialogue seems improvised, characters (many of whom are either related to Shults or friends) appear to be playing themselves (or some variations thereof), and cinematographer Drew Daniels’ cameras follow these characters through long takes, in unobtrusive fashion, sometimes capturing intimate moments that would otherwise remain private.

There is the obligatory “black sheep” of the family – in this case the titular character, played by Krisha Fairchild. This is her first encounter with her family in a decade, having endured a series of emotional setbacks that precluded being invited earlier.

As Brian McComber’s nerve-jangling score grows in intensity, the initial high spirits of the weekend inevitably give way to criticism and recriminations – the family’s dysfunctions becoming more and more pronounced, with Krisha perceiving herself as being the collective target.

Inevitable too is Krisha’s meltdown, sparked by her reunion with her mother (real-life mother Billie Fairchild), who is deep in the throes of Alzheimer’s Disease, then finally erupting as Krisha desperately (and delightedly) swigs from a bottle of wine in the confines of her bathroom, emerging in full inebriation and fiery temperament.

For Reynolds, Krisha is likely to give the actress the same sort of career boost as those recently enjoyed by Ann Dowd and June Squibb, actresses well past the ingenue stage – and well into the character phase – who seemingly emerge from nowhere with a show-stopping turn. So it is here for Reynolds, who understandably dominates the proceedings (the film is named after her, after all) with a heartbreaking portrayal of a woman at loose ends, unable in any way to tie them together and heal her wounds, many selfinflicted and primed for reopening as soon as she sets foot in her sister’s house. !

MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2016, Mark Burger.