Friday, 16 May 2014

"Concussion" (The Daily Telegraph 16/05/14)

Concussion (15 cert, 96 mins) ***

The prize for the week’s most arresting premise goes to Stacie Passon’s Concussion, an admirably curious indie that initially appears to have the set-up of some sniggering high-concept comedy. Heroine Abby (Robin Weigert) is a fortysomething gay woman whose long-term relationship is settling into dull routine when, one afternoon, she’s struck on the noggin by a wayward baseball pitched by her son. Within weeks, she’s buying a swanky Manhattan pad on a whim and hooking up with girls off Craigslist; within a month, she herself is offering sex for cash. Evidently, she’s all shook up; the question remains whether this sudden, insatiable appetite for independence is just a phase, or the way things were always meant to be.

The physics actually aren’t so far-fetched: anybody who’s ever gone flying over a discarded rollerskate would surely have been given pause to reconsider having had kids in the first place. And in Weigert, previously Calamity Jane on TV’s Deadwood, Passon has an especially persuasive frontwoman: negotiating even this character’s more extreme urges with a bemused good humour, she makes Abby’s choice to branch out into sex work seem unexpectedly empowered – for one, it permits her to share her burgeoning passions with nervy virgins, closeted housewives and scarred survivors alike. Women’s lib, we gather, can come in many forms, and from unexpected directions.

You could bracket Concussion off as a chichi update of the New Queer Cinema that jostled to prominence in the early 1990s: Abby’s glossily well-appointed lovenest fuels the fantasy of escape as much as anything here. Yet sharp writing and playing ensure its fingers are never too far from some messy, universal truth about desire: its heroine could stand for anyone confused as to what they really want from life, and even straight male viewers might find something instructive in the discreetly sexy love scenes, object lessons in how to look at, talk to and touch a woman. A too-neat finale ensures it isn’t quite a knockout, but Passon’s film arcs into view as a beguilingly flighted curveball – and, as its protagonist’s progress attests, the occasional one of those keeps everybody on their toes.

Concussion opens in selected cinemas from today.

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