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HomeMovie Review‘Americana’ Evaluation: A Contemporary Western Starring Halsey and Sydney Sweeney

‘Americana’ Evaluation: A Contemporary Western Starring Halsey and Sydney Sweeney

SXSW: Tony Tost’s characteristic directorial debut is an interesting and wholly entertaining interrogation of the legacy of the Western, with a killer efficiency by singer Halsey.

There are few film genres with as shut a relationship with the idea of “Americana” because the Western. It is a style deeply steeped within the historical past of American cinema, however one rife with as many highs because it has problematic lows. For each revolutionary and complicated concept, there’s a racist trope that has been intricately related to the style for many years; for each nuanced character, there’s a broad and problematic one.

It’s this legacy, the great and the dangerous, that author and director Tony Tost wrestles with in “Americana,” a movie that performs out like an early Tarantino film directed by the Coen brothers, whereas by no means feeling spinoff of both of the filmmakers. Tost’s movie is charming, gritty, and all-round entertaining one which boasts gallows humor, compelling performances, and an enormous coronary heart (plus numerous precise hearts being shot at and stabbed). Tost’s characteristic directorial debut reveals confidence and a capability to weave the non-public with the common.

Like “Pulp Fiction,” Tost splits his story into chapters, which he arranges out of order. We begin with the story of Cal (Gavin Maddox Bergman) and his mother Mandy (Halsey), who stay in a trailer park with Mandy’s abusive associate and attempt to discover a higher life, whereas Cal struggles along with his personal id — this very white child is satisfied he’s the reincarnation of Sitting Bull.

Later, we change areas and meet Lefty Ledbetter (Paul Walter Hauser) and waitress and aspiring actress Penny Jo (Sydney Sweeney), who’ve unbelievable chemistry that feels spontaneous and pure. There’s additionally a bunch of different characters all in their very own contained lives, performed by the likes of Simon Rex, Zahn McClarnon, and Eric Dane.

These characters would usually by no means even hear about one another, however their tales all collide in a violent approach after they discover themselves in pursuit of a legendary Lakota Ghost Shirt, believed to grant energy, fortune, or freedom to its wearer — or some huge cash to whoever sells it.

Tost creates a plausible world that may match these totally different storylines and interact the viewers with them earlier than diverting to the following one, then the following one. Like “Pulp Fiction,” and the very best of the early Coen brothers films, Tost’s script permits the characters to drive the narrative and to make the world of the movie really feel lived in. He invitations you to expertise their tales at their most intimate, earlier than bringing them to wackier, very violent locations, at which level you might be already invested not simply within the heist, however within the totally different events concerned.

Taking clear inspiration from Steven Spielberg’s “The Sugarland Categorical,” Tost’s characters border on archetypes, however nonetheless present a number of nuance, making every character characterize one thing larger, and broader to the style as an entire, whereas nonetheless having nuanced motivations and flaws. It’s a delight to see the puzzle items lastly fall into place, with characters which have vastly totally different motivations all of a sudden clashing towards one another.

To promote the twists and turns of the story, Tost assembled an outstanding forged, every actor delivering one thing distinctive. Whether or not it’s Bergman getting away with a lot of the larger laughs whereas clearly displaying a extra weak aspect to his character, or Hauser giving us a humble, unambitious however extraordinarily form and well-meaning farmer, it’s a pleasure to easily watch these performers at work.

And but, the clear standout is Halsey, in her characteristic performing debut. The singer-turned-actor infuses Mandy with a starvation for a greater life that clearly comes from a painful previous, speaking a lot with little or no and taking part in off her co-stars to hilarious outcomes.

At its coronary heart, “Americana” is an exploration of the Western and its legacy. The movie continuously teases drained tropes and archetypes, solely to flip them on their head for comedic functions, taking the expectations of what a Western is meant to be, then displaying how that will or wouldn’t fly in 2023, just like the depiction of cowboys and Native Individuals in these movies.

And but, Tost is clearly approaching this from a spot of affection, because the movie is clearly a homage to the style and all its sides, each good and dangerous. The director shoots the huge arid landscapes and secluded rural roads of center America with a melancholic eye, capturing the iconography of the style whereas considering whether or not it nonetheless has a spot in cinema at the moment. With a movie like this now in its arsenal, it certainly does.

Grade: B+

“Americana” premiered on the 2023 SXSW Movie Competition. It’s at the moment looking for distribution. 

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