Teenage Cocktail SXSW teaser has masks, money, and mayhem

In the new romance-thriller Teenage Cocktail, Nichole Bloom (Shameless) and Fabianne Therese (Starry Eyes) play small town high-schoolers Annie and Jules, who fall in love and hatch a scheme to finance their escape to New York by webcam modeling. Their plan goes awry when Jules’ ex-boyfriend discovers the pair’s relationship and shares their photos with the entire school.

Starry Eyes (Dir. Kevin Kolsch & Dennis Widmyer)

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Starry Eyes is the 2014 film starring Alexandra Essoe as a woman out to get hers, and the horrors she will visit upon herself to achieve her ambitions to be a hollywood star.  One of the best ways I’ve heard this movie described is Rosemary’s Baby if it was from Guy’s perspective, and Guy was Rosemary.  But that sells what actually happens short, which is this melange of synthy epileptic young jean commercial coated over the top of a brutal examination of a system designed to rip apart and destroy the young women it needs to sustain itself.

The most potent aspects of this film have to deal with Alexandra Essoe’s worth as a human being, and how that is lensed through her youth and beauty–and more than that this is a movie about cuthroat competition between women to get to the top of a mountain, which still sits at the pleasure of the old white man in the sky.  The acrid relationship between Essoe’s Sarah and her roommate’s friend Erin, played by Fabianne Therese is a game of small cuts every day, day in and day out.  The two are waging long term psychological warfare; trying desperately to assert themselves as the number one woman both in their group, and also  in their shared field of acting.  There’s no real cognizance from either Sarah or Erin that what their doing is unnaturally brutal–only that it is the harsh reality of a world that only allows for one woman at a time.  As Sarah herself says to her boss at her waitressing job in response to his statement  that millions of other women would die for her job, “I’m not millions of other girls!”–this expectationalism isn’t unique in the human condition, but strained through the hollywood system of millions of girls who are not like the other girls–who are both dying and killing each other for a role that is still subservient to the white male producer in the sky–it’s pretty gut wrenching stuff.

And so it’s no surprise that the victims that Essoe first chooses when she becomes murderous, ARE women.  And the men she kills are only because of their relationship to the women that she kills.  They are an afterthought to her ire.

The largest reason to see this though is Alexandra Essoe’s performance.  The transformations and horrors that her body goes through, and her ability to convey both wide eyed innocence, and demonic hysterical predation from scene to scene is really remarkable.  It is a full bodied performance, and the duality she presents is the conflict of the things you have to do to be THE girl, against the expectations of you and your body as A woman.

There is also something to be said for the effects in general, and the basic theme of the mutilation and destruction of both vanity and beauty.  When one of Sarah’s friends breaks her face at the pool, Sarah laughs to herself–but the fundamental horror of a woman’s disfigurement is that societally we place a woman’s power in her beauty to such an extent, that there is a real horror in this kind of disfigurement, because it has an attendant loss of social power and status.  For a beautiful woman to become wretched is to traffic into the abject.  Her face isn’t becoming disfigured–it is being twisted by the natural processes of blood, healing, and injury that require survival–the notion of disfigurement particularly with women, sits in the idea that it is not enough to simply survive, or even to be able to accomplish things in your time–you must also pleasure a system predicated upon the very things which create the concept of disfigurement in the first place.  Disfigured beauty exposes the shame of our shallowness and exposes, uncomfortably that our ideas of beauty are in opposition to life itself.

Once Essoe is reborn, it is not her form that has changed–but a combination of her status, and her acknowledged complicity in the perpetuation of a system that has made her.  She finally looks like the starlets on her wall–but she has been exposed through the course of the film as the malformed monster of our own pitiful creation.

Maybe the performance of the year.


New Release Review: Starry Eyes

Hollywood may be perceived as glitz and glamor from the outside, but those who have are in the film business will tell you that it can be a dark, shallow place. Starry Eyes takes the viewer inside this cutthroat world, focusing on a desperate actress who’s willing to become a slave to the industry for a shot at fame. Jealous so-called friends, sleazy producers, demeaning day jobs and arduous, soul-bearing auditions are merely the beginning of the struggle.

Sarah Walker (Alex Essoe) is an an aspiring actress anxiously awaiting her big break. That moment finally seems to arrive when she scores an audition for Silver Scream, the latest film from esteemed production company Astraeus Pictures. A coveted callback affords her the opportunity to meet with the mysterious producer (Louis Dezseran), at which point Sarah confesses that she will do whatever it takes to win the role. Little does she know that she will be tested in more ways than she could ever imagine.

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Trailer for my film: John Dies at the End