This week’s minor VOD releases feature a pregnant teenager, a mismatched detective duo and a sleazy comedian who is an actual monster.
Les Nôtres (VOD and select theaters June 18): There’s no easy way to tackle the subject matter of this French-Canadian drama about a pregnant 13-year-old girl. Director and co-writer Jeanne Leblanc avoids turning Les Nôtres into a message movie, although the alternative is a grim parade of misery with no resolution or meaning. Magalie (Émilie Bierre) is at first in denial about her situation, and then completely closed off, unwilling to reveal to anyone that the father of her baby is her married, middle-aged neighbor (who also happens to be the mayor of their small town). No one in Les Nôtres does the right thing, and the reactions to Magalie’s pregnancy reveal ugly strains of sexism and racism (the boy assumed to be the father is Latino) in the seemingly idyllic town. It’s uncomfortable viewing that offers little reward, although the performances are mostly compelling, and Leblanc holds back the extreme melodrama. She just doesn’t offer anything worthwhile in its place. Grade: C+
Take Back (VOD and select theaters June 18): B-movie action veteran Michael Jai White takes a back seat to his wife Gillian in this mostly dull, poorly constructed thriller. It’s a decent calling card for Gillian White, at least, who gets to show off her action chops as a lawyer whose past comes back to haunt her, when a viral video of her taking down a coffee-shop assailant puts her back on the radar of the sex-trafficking operation she escaped from years earlier. Mickey Rourke gives a typically semi-comatose performance as the villain, whose menacing actions include chewing a toothpick, grooming his tiny dogs, and taking his sunglasses off and putting them back on. The criminal enterprise makes little sense, and there are long stretches of the movie where nothing happens other than characters repeating exposition to each other. When the Whites get to cut loose, they make the most of it, but those opportunities are disappointingly minimal. Grade: C-
Bad Detectives (VOD June 22): There’s an appealing buddy-cop dynamic between stars Dralla Aierken and Freya Tingley in this noir-influenced mystery, but the plotting and dialogue don’t quite live up to their chemistry. Aierken and Tingley play Ping Liu and Nic O’Connell, respectively, the granddaughters of a pair of LA private detectives who died under mysterious circumstances, and have jointly willed their detective business to their feuding descendants. The filmmakers never get around to explaining the bad blood between Ping and Nic, and the central mystery of the grandfathers’ death is convoluted and vague, with seemingly important plot points missing. The short, awkwardly paced movie plays more like an extended TV pilot than a self-contained feature film. Aierken and Tingley have enough charisma and chemistry that it would be worth watching Ping and Nic solve weekly cases, but the movie around them is too clumsy to support its central characters. Grade: C+
Finding Ophelia (VOD June 23): Stephen Rutterford’s tedious, belabored psychodrama opens with three solid minutes of abstract water imagery, and it doesn’t get any less obtuse from there. Eventually, the narrative sort of coalesces around Brooklyn artist Will Edgar (Jimmy Levar), who’s experiencing disorienting dreams and hallucinations related to a mysterious woman named Ophelia (Christina Chu). Mostly, Will wanders around New York City encountering strange people and situations, sometimes with heavy-handed references to Hamlet (Will lives on Hamlet Street, of course). It’s not clear what Rutterford might be saying about Shakespeare (or Edgar Allan Poe, who contributes the other half of Will’s name, and whose poem “A Dream Within a Dream” shows up in voiceover). Will is more of a symbol than a character, so it’s impossible to invest in his muddled journey, which ends with an absurd twist more fitting for a horror movie than this low-rent art installation. Grade: D-
Too Late (VOD and select theaters June 25): Showbiz literally eats people alive in this mildly amusing horror-comedy about a legendary stand-up comedian who is also some sort of supernatural creature. Violet Fields (Alyssa Limperis) is the long-suffering assistant to comedy icon Bob Devore (Ron Lynch), and her duties include “scouting talent,” which means that she procures victims for Bob to devour once a month. Director D.W. Thomas and writer Tom Becker are more interested in the neuroses of stand-up comedians than in exploring the nature of Bob’s condition, and almost all of the violence is brief and takes place offscreen. But Limperis is charming and funny as the put-upon Violet, and the movie’s depiction of the L.A. comedy scene has a level of authenticity that most non-horror movies about stand-up comedy lack. The scares are nonexistent and not all of the jokes land, but Too Late is a solid warm-up for its creators’ next act. Grade: B-