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Sundance 2022 – Day 5 Reviews: Palm Trees & Power Lines, Emily the Criminal, and Babysitter

The 2022 Sundance Film Festival completed its fifth day of virtual programming yesterday on January 24, 2022. What I hoped would be a turnover and improvement from Day 4 of the festival, turned out to be a lackluster and complicated day of emotions. Weird… I know! Here’s my Day 5 Review of my Sundance 2022 Watchlist.

1) Palm Trees and Power Lines | Director: Jamie Dack

Palm Trees and Power Lines
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Sundance Synopsis: Increasingly dissociated from lazy, drunken hangouts and perfunctory hookups with her immature peers, bored, aimless 17-year-old Lea is intrigued by older-man Tom after he rescues her following a reluctant dine-and-dash at a local diner. Initially wary (he’s twice her age!), Lea finds that Tom’s focused attention fills a deep, unspoken need, and Lea’s investment in their relationship quickly supplants her already tenuous ties to her distracted single mom and loose-knit friend group. But Tom’s initial patience and willingness to let Lea take the lead gradually gives way to a dynamic in which his awareness of the power he holds is distressingly clear.

Review: I had to tell myself half way through Dack’s highly tasteless feature that it couldn’t get any worse, but it did. Instead of actually critiquing pedophilia, Palm Trees & Power Lines digs deep on romanticizing the “relationship” between this couple. It even doubles down on the romanticism and faux critique by using 34-year-old Tom (played by Jonathan Tucker) as the solution to all of 17-year-old Lea’s problems. Simply put, Dack’s feature didn’t say anything we already didn’t know. Full review here.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

2) Emily the Criminal | Director: John Patton Ford

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Low Spark Films

Sundance Synopsis: Emily (Aubrey Plaza) is saddled with student debt and locked out of the job market due to a minor criminal record. Desperate for income, she takes a shady gig as a “dummy shopper,” buying goods with stolen credit cards supplied by a middleman named Youcef (Theo Rossi). Faced with a series of dead-end job interviews, Emily soon finds herself seduced not only by the quick cash and illicit thrills of black market capitalism, but also by her ardent mentor Youcef.

Review: Aubrey Plaza is amazing in everything she does. But the script of Emily the Criminal doesn’t match Plaza’s intensity and execution of desperation to make money. Why is she desperate? Student Loans. It’s a burden many of us know all too well when it comes to the US education and loan system. I just wish there was a lot more commentary on that rather than a few cringey lines. Still, the film is entertaining enough.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

3) Babysitter | Director: Monia Chokri

Babysitter
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Sundance Synopsis: Middle-aged sexist Cédric (Patrick Hivon) gets suspended from work after drunkenly kissing a female reporter during a prank on live TV. Stuck at home with his long-suffering girlfriend, Nadine (director Monia Chokri), and their incessantly crying baby, Cédric teams up with his sensitive brother, Jean-Michel (Steve Laplante), to co-author a confessional book apologizing for their past misogyny. Enter Amy (Nadia Tereszkiewicz): a mysterious and provocative young babysitter, who, like a Mary Poppins of the libido, forces the trio to face their sexual anxieties while turning their lives upside down.

Review: I hope I don’t sound crazy, but this movie is right up my alley. It knows exactly what it’s doing, and Monia Chokri has an eye for visual hilarity. Babysitter might not be for everyone, but I’ve definitely noticed a certain demographic that absolutely hates this movie, which definitely makes me chuckle. But it hits all the right notes on what misogyny truly is, and maybe people weren’t ready for that conversation. This vibrant, quirky, and hilarious feature rocked.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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