Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Digital/VODebut--Alice Winocour's PROXIMA: Let's train for Mars while trashing protocol

Few films have impressed me so much at their outset (and well beyond) before collapsing into utter stupidity by their finale as does PROXIMA, the latest from Alice Winocour, the talented woman responsible for writing Mustang and writing and directing Disorder and Augustine

Perhaps the international space program (or what passes for this in the movie) is set up differently from other space programs -- or any rigorous government program that depends on carefully adhering to high standards in order to achieve difficult results -- because what the movie's heroine Sarah (played very well by that always interesting actress Eva Green) is allowed to get away with here proves downright dumb. As this movie continues, deal-breaker follows deal-breaker until the last ridiculous event, which trumps them all.

Ms Winocour, pictured at right, tells the tale of Sarah, her "ex" Thomas, and their daughter Stella, who is both precocious and dyslexic. Sarah is in training for space travel to Mars, and as the movie opens, she's just learned she has been chosen as part of the crew. Thomas is pleased for her and happy to have charge of Stella while Sarah is gone. 

Stella (an excellent ZĂ©lie Boulant, below) is frightened of losing her mom, for good reason of course, and Sarah is, we perceive more fully as the movie moves along, wracked with guilt about leaving her daughter. How this guilt plays out, simultaneous with the training for space travel Sarah is undergoing, forms the meat of the movie 

Winocour captures well the parent-child bond (of both parents) and shows how differently this plays out when the woman has one of those give-it-everything careers, as does Sarah, in which the needs of motherhood seem in direct conflict with that career.

There is the usual male entitlement number to endure (Matt Dillon, at right, above, plays the head of Sarah's space crew), but then come those occasions when Sarah simply breaks protocol so that she can have it both ways: motherhood and space travel. Breaking this is one thing, but then we wait for the penalty for this -- which never comes. This is ludicrous, since it becomes more and more clear that having Sarah as a crew member is likely to endanger that crew.

But, hey, there must be some kind of feminist wish-fulfillment going on because it seems you actually can have it all. There are audiences out there who will buy into this sort of very weird reasoning, but TrustMovies is not among them. I am saddened because the performances are first-rate, and much of the dialog and situations are well-handled, too. 

Back in the 1960s/70s there was a movement known as "logical consequences,"in which an action has its consequence that follows logically. (Used as a parenting tool, as I recall, it may still be in vogue, although clearly it has never been activated nor even thought about by Donald Trump and his minions.)  Any sort of logical consequence for Sarah's actions is what's missing from this movie, and that lack turns a very good film into a very bad one.

From Vertical Entertainment and running 107 minutes, Proxima hits digtial streaming and VOD this Friday,. November 6. Your move. (It might help if Vertical Entertainment listed the film on its web site -- at least in the Coming Soon section.)

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