Lita On Film

Posts Tagged ‘Vera Farmiga’

Higher Ground – P-town 2011

In Film Reviews on July 1, 2011 at 10:54 am

“Higher Ground” is a delicate, nuanced tale of one woman struggling to balance her rebellious intellect with her membership in a restrictive Christian sect. Eventually, after 20 years of obedience and indoctrination, she decides to turn away from her faith.

Actress Vera Farmiga (“Up In The Air”) directed and stars in “Higher Ground,” and also co-wrote the script with Carolyn S. Briggs, whose memoir “This Dark World” is the film’s source material. The story definitely feels true to life; the characters are well developed and the situations Carolyn (Farmiga’s character) finds herself in are fully believable. This isn’t some sort of made-for-TV expose—even the church leaders are figured as good, well-meaning people, not as nutty religious fanatics.

 

This lack of hysteria helps the audience identify with Carolyn and with the creeping suspicions that gradually lead to the erosion of her faith; rarely has an American film dealt so honestly with the ambiguousness of religion. Though watching the dissolution of Carolyn’s marriage is painful, her transformation from a frightened young mother to a self-confident, independent woman is sincere and inspiring. While her husband grows more and more dependent on the other men in the church, Carolyn starts spending time at the library, reading poetry and delving into the history of the Scriptures rather than just reciting them. When a friend hands her “Beloved” by Toni Morrison, you want to stand up and cheer. Carolyn’s journey towards freedom and self-determination is nothing less than thrilling.

Farmiga’s direction is assured and keeps the story moving while never tipping into melodrama. In other hands the film could have lost its focus on its protagonist’s journey and emphasized the cult-like church instead—but Farmiga maintains her concentration on her character, allowing everything else in the film to swirl around, but never obscure, her. Just for this, the film deserves praise; the fact that it’s also simply excellent is an added bonus.

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P-Town Festival Roundup

In Film News, Film Reviews on June 20, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Commercial Street, P-Town's main drag

Well, the 13th annual Provincetown International Film Festival was wonderful.  Though there were a few organizational hiccups (people got turned away from screenings because they ran out of seats, etc.), this festival is just as fun as a big-city event like Tribeca but with none of the corporate stuffiness or commercialized hype from sponsors.  Sure, we got HBO swag bags, but that was about it.  The general air was fun, happy, excited–everything you’d hope for.  And since this fest took place in glorious P-Town, as the locals call it, there was plenty of sun and sand (and restaurants, shops and drag shows) to enjoy between screenings.

At the Friday screening of "Weekend"

The five films I ended up seeing (I had planned to see eight, but time constraints and one overbooked screening conspired against me) turned out to be a great mixture and representative of the festival’s overall quality: “Higher Ground,” “Weekend,” “Happy, Happy,” “Buck,” and “On The Ice.”  (Reviews to follow!)  “Buck” ended up winning the HBO Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature, and Vera Farmiga, director and star of “Higher Ground,” was honored with this year’s Excellence in Acting Award.  Other award recipients for 2011 were Darren Aronofsky (Filmmaker on the Edge Award) and Albert Maysles (Career Achievement Award).  Like the fest and P-Town itself, the honorees represent a diverse range of expertise and experience, all bringing their own unique brand of brilliance to their work.

The press lounge at Gabriel's Inn - great snacks!

As a whole, the festival was excellent.  The staff and volunteers were welcoming and accessible, and I really got the feeling that they were genuinely excited about and dedicated to making the fest as good as it possibly could be.  Other audience members I chatted with (not press, just regular civilians) all seemed in line with this tide of enthusiasm; they were all thrilled to have such a great cultural event taking place in their town, and relished the opportunity to see such great films right in their own backyards.

Postcard-perfect P-town

All in all, I declare P-Town 2011 a complete success.  Looking forward to coming back next year!

 

Provincetown International Film Fest 2011!

In Film News, Film Reviews on June 12, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Beginning next Friday (the 17th) I will be posting from beautiful Provincetown, MA, at the very end of Cape Cod, for a couple of days while covering the Provincetown International Film Festival.  The PIFF is one of the country’s hottest up-and-coming festivals, and this year much of its content has already screened at other top-tier festivals including Tribeca (see the April/May archives for my coverage of Tribeca 2011!).

This year PIFF will be honoring Darren Aronofsky, Vera Farmiga, and Albert Maysles, as well as screening a ton of great indies, international and short films (check out the schedule here).  There’s no place more beautiful than the Cape in the early summer, so if you’re up for a jaunt to P-town (as it’s known to us locals), now’s the time!

Stay tuned for my festival coverage, which will also be going up on ScreenComment.com!