Directed by Larry Wade Carrell
We were just inside the cabin, at the edge of the first act, when the drugs began to take hold.
She Rises is a weird, weird little movie. It’s going to be almost as tricky to write about as it was to watch.
Even a synopsis is a challenge… Connor and Kat (Macfadyen and Blanc-Biehn) are an actor and director, respectively, on their way from one location for their low-budget horror film to another. They take a wrong turn, go to a cabin in the woods for help, and things get really weird.
That’s not really a good description, but it’s the best I’ve got.
At the cabin, they meet innocent, religious Rosebud (McCrackin) and near-mute, elderly Daddy Longlegs (Biehn) when Rosebud offers them a spare room to spend the night. Connor wastes no time getting extremely fresh with the lovely but awkward Rosebud, despite an obvious pseudo-relationship with Kat.
Before long, they’re in a bedroom for an “audition,” which is clearly a ploy to get Rosebud out of her knickers and Connor into her sheets.
At this point, I wasn’t sure if I could get through this movie. Honestly, it was a rambling, free-form, improvised mess with Macfadyen sliding from one impression to another as a pop-culture movie-quoting trivia machine. I really didn’t have any idea what was happening. Director Carrell blew my doors off with his first film, Jacob, and I know the Biehns well enough to know they wouldn’t take part in anything without merit, but man… this was some deep hurting.
Nonetheless, I hung in there, and I’m glad I did.
See, this is one of those movies about movies. About actors, about directors, about filmmaking, about the art of cinema. It may also be about succubi, but I’m not sure.
Shortly after the “audition” goes south, the film takes a giant left turn and becomes a Lynchian nightmare. Dreams and reality start to blend, and it becomes clear that not even those first few minutes can be accepted as real. Well, they’re real, but were they a movie? A dream?
I can’t get into details, because to do so would be spoiling things, but I’m not even sure the movie CAN be spoiled. Can you spoil Lynch’s Inland Empire? This reminded me of that film as it has a similar disjointed fever dream feeling that completely ditches the standard narrative structure.
This movie isn’t as solid as Lynch’s work, obviously (what is?), but it’s a very interesting examination of just what it is actors and directors do. Using Rosebud’s possibly supernatural nature as a metaphor (showing men what she needs to keep them doing what she wants and drain their life away) for the cinematic process and the movie business as a whole, the film definitely has something to say… and sometimes succeeds in saying it.
This really isn’t a “message” film in its execution, though. It’s completely surreal. There’s a point where it could have ended with a semi-traditional conclusion, and then we’re suddenly on the set of another film with all the roles switched around and the director is an actor and oh no, I’ve gone all cross-eyed.
At the end of the day, is this an enjoyable film? Yes. Cinema nerds will enjoy it far more than standard filmgoers, to be certain, much as writers enjoy Barton Fink more than most. It’s still a good watch for fans of more surreal and artistic movies that eschew the three-act structure and go balls-out insane. All of the performers are great, Carrell does some interesting and fun things with the camera during various sequences paying homage to classic films, and we’re talking about a movie where an actor playing Hamlet is told, “Get your cock out!“