SXSW Snapshots: 'Swan Song,' 'Best Summer Ever' and 'Women is Losers'
Editor’s Note: The SXSW Snapshot series is a collection of short and sweet reviews from our coverage of the 2021 South by Southwest online film festival. Reviews were compiled in no particular order. Be on the lookout for more snapshots. Enjoy!
BEST SUMMER EVER
Anyone who grew up watching Disney Channel Original Movies, “Grease” and “Footloose” will find plenty to embrace in Michael Parks Randa’s and Lauren Smitelli inclusive musical “Best Summer Ever.” With the help of Zeno Mountain Farm - a group whose mission is to give disabled actors a spotlight to shine - “Best Summer Ever” features a variety of actors with disabilities and without, not only fostering positive cinematic representation for that community, but they deliver an infections, often cheesy, musical that’s hard to resist.
The pic follows two spunky young kids: Sage (Shannon DeVido) and Tony (Rickey Wilson) who fall in love at summer camp, but the reality of their relationship - he is a football star who secretly loves dancing and her living with flakey parents who move around constantly - comes into focus as they go separate ways. As luck would have it, the star-crossed lovers rekindle and DeVideo and Wilson bring the charm to a plethora of fun and elaborately staged musical sequences.
There’s a variety of cheeky subplots - from snotty cheerleaders to the “big” homecoming game - that gives “Best Summer Ever” an amateurish vibe, but the all around cheery attitude overcomes an array of songs that won’t necessarily become massive hits.
BEST SUMMER EVER debuted at the SXSW Film Festival is currently seeking distribution.
WOMEN IS LOSERS
Set in 1960s San Francisco, Lissette Feliciano’s “Women is Losers” follows Celina Guerrera (Lorenza Izzo) a good-natured, hardworking Latina struggling with societal standards and carving out a future for her son. She claims to be a “loser” because daily life is populated with men who alienate and belittle her, though working three jobs to save for a down payment on a house creates an opportunity to turn the tide. With little to no help from Mateo (Bryan Craig) – the father to her child – Celina climbs the corporate ladder while thwarting down advances from her boss (Simu Liu).
As a rallying cry for the mistreatment and empowerment of women, “Women is Losers” tells the audiences what we already know in regard to female pay disparity and discrimination, albeit with some nifty tactics (who doesn’t love a fourth wall break). But Feliciano’s film – for all its good intentions – succumbs to an array of cheesy, made-for-television troupes that undermine the film’s emotional heft. The film’s hollow and familiar foundation doesn’t help either through Guerrera’s engaging performance gets milage from a screenplay that bounces all over the place. It’s not a total loser, but it isn’t a winner either.
WOMEN IS LOSERS debuted at the SXSW Film Festival and is seeking distribution
Any opportunity to watch Udo Kier outfitted in drag and chew up the screen for 105 minutes is cause for celebration. And though Kier has worked with some of the best filmmakers, “Swan Song” gives the German actor his most vibrant role to date. At 76-years old, Kier fires on all cylinders, going against type and having fun as the leading man for once. He plays Pat Pitsenbarger, a retired beautician and once prominent gay icon, slowly rotting away at an old folk’s home in Sandusky, Ohio. When one of Pat’s former clients dies, it was her last wish that he take care of hair and makeup arrangements. Suddenly, the slouchy, chain-smoking grump finds a purpose in his misbegotten life.
So is the tale of “Swan Song,” a redemption story that occasionally detours into melodramatic territory (it comes with the subject matter) but tells an inspiring tale, nonetheless. Punctuated with a soundtrack that includes everyone from Melissa Manchester to Beyonce, Todd Stephens’s “Swan Song” sings a familiar tune worth hearing.
SWAN SONG debuted at the SXSW Film Festival and Magnolia will release it later this year.
All the above photos courtesy of the SXSW Film Festival