Sunday, March 27 @ 12:00pm | Brattle Theatre
2016 | USA | 93 minutes
Directors: Richard Bates, Jr.
Screenwriters: Richard Bates, Jr.
Cast: Adrian Grenier, Angela Trimbur, AnnaLynne McCord, Fionnula Flanagan
Owen is a miserable bastard. Plagued with alcoholism, bulimia, epilepsy, and PTSD, his maladies take a back seat to his toxic personality. His girlfriend Isabel, after three years, has had enough and has learned to dole out the snark as good as she gets it. Still, the cycle of enablement has sunk its claws into her, and it seems these two souls are trapped in a prison of co-dependency.
When Isabel announces she is pregnant, it sparks a desire to meet Owen’s family. Bad idea. Owen has a particularly estranged relationship with what is left of his family. “I was practically hate-fucked into existence,” is his way of describing his parents who died in a fire that he caused, leaving his sister, Pearl, badly burned. Pearl now lives with their grandmother, Violet, a terse authoritarian figure whose indifference to Owens contrition and disdain for Isabel in general is not masked in the slightest by anything resembling civility. Their short stay at Grandma Violet’s quickly devolves from an uncomfortable visit to a house of horrors nightmare, with Violet outwardly antagonizing the couple and Pearl’s spectre-like presence haunting Owen’s battered conscience.
Returning to BUFF with his third feature, writer/director Richard Bates, Jr. delivers what is possibly his most realized genre mash-up after the spooky comedy Suburban Gothic and the riveting outsider drama Excision. The dialogue is so acerbic, it’s practically corrosive, aided by fantastic performances by Angela Trimbur and Adrian Grenier at his career best (you won’t think of Vincent Chase once). And as fun as it is watching these two gifted actors trade deadpan barbs, they are aided by a supporting cast that shines in every scene, such as Fionnula Flanagan playing against type as the truly repulsive Violet and AnnaLynne McCord as Pearl, who manages to be as much of a presence off-screen as on. The talent on display here builds the tension right up until the gut-punch of a finale. This is a Trash Fire from which it is impossible to turn away.