SXSW 2017: Mr. Roosevelt Review by Ashley Menzel
Noël Wells directs her first full-length film, Mr. Roosevelt where she plays a struggling comedian named Emily who due to tragedy must return to Austin. Her experience in Austin is much different than what she anticipates due to the surprise new girlfriend of her ex-boyfriend Eric (Nick Thune). This shock combined with the stress of her tragedy throws her into a tumultuous tailspin which is a tale of endless entertainment.
It is such a treat to see a female directed and written film see such a warm response. Noël Wells is powerhouse triple threat and a force to be reckoned with. The opening scene is hilarious and sets the perfect tone for the rest of the film. An awkward and painful audition gives us the perfect character introduction to Emily. The writing in the film is incredibly witty and funny. One scene, in particular, was so refreshing where Emily is talking to a guy who tells her that she is “quirky” after which she goes on a rant where she tells him that using words like that put women into boxes. I almost stood up and cheered.
The strongest performances in the film all come from the female cast. The chemistry between the characters is great, and they work so well together. Daniella Pineda is amazingly fun and in your face as Jen. Britt Lower’s Celeste is a very different character than the other two but still holds her own and adds another dimension to the film. As I said before, Noël is astonishing, taking the helm as director, writer and actress, she handled it all with grace and as a result gave us one kick ass female-led film.
The relationship between Celeste (Britt Lower) and Emily is one that we see often but develops into something quite wonderful in this film. We often see the women pitted against each other, but the way in which Wells handles these characters shows a level of finesse in character development. The characters, especially the female characters are written so differently but so well. It is refreshing to see strong female characters that are also very flawed. There’s an scene near the end of the film where we see the three women are very different but each can appreciate one another.
The film has a distinct personality and clearly shows the vision that Wells had for the film. It is hilarious, entertaining, and beautifully shot. The use of 35 mm film makes the film have a personal touch and reaches the audience in a deeply personal and somewhat nostalgic way. Shot in Austin, the film gives off a very meticulous vibe that shows the love the filmmaker had for the city without being overly gratuitous. Noël Wells blew me away with this film and is sure to have a long and successful career ahead of her.