Soft In The Head
directed by Nathan Silver
starring Sheila ExtererrÃa and Ed Ryan
As the press release informs us, Natalia (Sheila ExtererrÃa) is a “hot mess.” I’ve always wondered exactly what that phrase meant, but here it is: she’s cute, drunk, and disruptive. Natalie is kicked out by her brutal boyfriend (Theodore Bouloukos) , he’s as fed up with her as I was by the end of this film. Natalie shows up at Hanna’s (Melanie J. Scheiner) parents’ Seder meal puking drunk, impressing Hanna’s conservative parents with her lack of self-control. Now she’s in the Homeless Street Lady Apprenticeship program where she meets Maury (Ed Ryan) who runs a private homeless shelter for the marginally insane. He’s supernaturally nice, he puts up with more baloney and abuse from those he’s helping than St Francis could stand. Next Natalie drifts between Maury’s charity and Hanna’s disapproval and seduces Hanna’s awkward brother Nathan (Carl Kranz). He’s as close to sympathetic as anyone, although that’s not saying much.. I’m not sure what Natalie’s goals are, but they seem to be pushing the bounds of good will until they snap. She’s quite good at it.
Shot in a Cinéma vérité style with what sometimes seems like an iPhone camera, this film trades faux authenticity for cinematic precision with images that are in your face, not exactly focused and not exactly blurred. Storywise we spend our 70 minutes locked in with unendearing wackos who aren’t exactly dangerous but aren’t exactly fun either. Nathan and Hanna’s parents are cartoon classic Jewish parents desperate for grandchildren and out to marry Nathan to anyone except Natalie. Grandkids are important, but there are limits. This set of oddballs and losers are well drawn and well-acted, but as a sum of their parts they are a repulsive lot with a hopeless story.