Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Proxy: There is No Twelve Step Program for this Kind of Nuts
grieving parents’ support group is about to get sinister. Fortunately, a
formerly pregnant woman and her new fast friend have their own strange ways of
processing loss. The hyper-sensitive are sure to be offended and nobody is
likely to win mother-of-the-year awards, but some truly game-changing twists
will come viewers’ way during Zack Parker’s Proxy
which opens this Friday in New York at the IFC Center.
home from her ultrasound, the very pregnant Esther Woodhouse is brutally
attacked by a hooded figure deliberately targeting her baby. She survives the
attack, but her unborn child does not. During her recuperation, the hospital
staff is so alarmed by her emotional detachment, they require her to attend a
grief counseling group session. It is there that she meets fellow member
Melanie Michaels. Clearly Woodhouse feels some degree of sexual attraction, but
Michaels seems to take exploitative emotional satisfaction from their
encounters—none of which pleases Anika Barön, Woodhouse’s violently jealous
ex-con lesbian lover.
will ensnare all three women in a web of obsession and revenge, but a series of
massive revelations will profoundly alter our perceptions of Woodhouse and
Michaels. In contrast, Barön wears her insanity on her sleeve and never wavers
from it. To give away any further details would be spoilery. It would also look
ridiculously lurid spelled out in black and white.
that bite-me fearlessness is part of Proxy’s
charm, so to speak. Parker synthesizes Cape
Fear, Don’t Look Now, and half a dozen De Palma films, while the Newton
Brothers’ score transparently evokes the Bernard Hermann music heard in the
Hitchcock films the latter was riffing on, but he gives his themes and motifs a
distinctive spin all his own. Parker does not merely dab a toe on the third
rail of sexual orientation—he jumps on it with both feet. Frankly, this is the
sort of gleefully bold erotically charged thriller we probably thought we would
never see again—and it works for precisely that reason (even though Parker’s
extreme budget constraints nearly undermine key third act sequences).
Rasmussen, Alexa Havins, and Kristina Klebe admirably go all in as the bat-scat
crazy trio, each in their own way. As the formerly pregnant Woodhouse, Rasmussen
might just take the honors as the most unsettling, but the competition is
fierce. Yet, somehow horror film and mumblecore actor-director Joe Swanberg
adds a messy but unexpectedly moving human dimension to the proceedings as
Michaels’ in-for-it husband Patrick.
It is no hyperbole to say Proxy will surprise even old jaded genre hands. Perhaps the most
shocking aspect of Parker’s film is its distribution deal with IFC Midnight.
Regardless, here it is. Recommended for those who appreciate dark psychological
thrillers with a healthy disregard for polite conventions, Proxy opens this Friday (late night 4/18) at the IFC Center and
also launches on VOD.
Labels: Joe Swanberg, Psychological Thrillers