Kelly & Cal (2014) |BFI London Film Festival

September 29th, 2014
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Jen McGowan Cast: Juliette Lewis, Johnny Weston, Josh Hopkins, Cybil Shephard, Lucy Owen; USA 2013, 110 min.

Debut features don’t come much more assured and risk-free than Jen McGowan”s bitter-sweet nearly-love story between Kelly (Lewis), a thirty something housewife, struggling with a new born baby, and Cal, half her age, wheel-chair bound after an recent accident. Kelly met her husband Josh (Hopkins) at art school, but now Josh is working an advertising, well aware that he has signed over his life (and, to a large extent, Kelly’s) to the corporate world – making neither of them happy, in spite of a their affluent lifestyle. Baby Jackson prefers his Dad to his Mum; the latter feeling even more depressed when Josh’s mother (Shephard) and sister Julie (Owen) turn up nearly every day to give the new mother unwelcome tips: how to change her sad life into that of a conceited member of the middle-class. After meeting Cal, who is rather rude to begin with, Kelly does discovers her 18year old self: a rebellious member of a girl band, which obviously impresses Cal. Whilst Josh slaves away in the city and has little time for chat (never mind sex) with his wife, Cal is only to keen to try his luck. Stripping in front of the window, looking down at the gasping Cal, Kelly oversteps the boundary, and Josh moves out with the baby to live with his mother.

The narrative starts out fresh and sometimes daring, even though some might consider scenes with Kelly riding on Cal’s lap in the wheelchair rather corny. But the longer this particular ménage-a-trois goes on, the more it calls for the Kleenex. In the end, every real conflict is drowned in sentimentality and pseudo-reconciliation. Everybody goes back to the starting position “trying harder” being the solution. This way, the status quo is confirmed, as in all “serious” Hollywood movies. Instead of producing the free flowing tears of the protagonists as an answer to their central dilemma, the director should have questioned why, just for a nice house and designer furniture, do Kelly and Josh have to sacrifice their love for each other. Having started out together at art school, they are now a millions miles away from the life they really wanted. Does the (limited) material security the Corporation offers really justify a life style that betrays their original aspirations?

Juliette Lewis is slightly over the top in her exuberant portrayal of an ’18 year old in love”. Hopkins’ Josh is a little too passive before his outburst, and whilst Weston manages the bravado of a teenager, it is difficult to see any real hurt, only bad-tempered anger. Shephard’s mother and Owen’s bitchy sister are by far less one-dimensional than the main protagonists. The camerawork is slick and effective in portraying the world of advertising: interior designs and cars feature prominently. Will Mc Gowan’s second film push the boundaries out a little further? AS

LFF: 9.10. 18.15 Hackney, 10.10. 18.00 VUE5, 11.10. VUE7



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