SXSW Film Reviews: The Master Cleanse and Chevalier


The Master Cleanse


Meaninglessly drifting through life, Paul Berger (Johnny Galecki) stumbles across a TV commercial advertising a quiet retreat and the promise of coming out renewed. Despite the sinister sounding release he’s signed, Berger nevertheless is on board with his master cleanse. Joining Paul on his retreat to the middle of the woods is love interest Maggie (Anna Friel) and couple Eric (Kyle Gallner) and Laurie (Diana Bang). Their spiritual guide, played by Anjelica Huston, first and foremost asks them to consume four jars of a disgustingly pre-made mixture, causing them to literally expel their insecurities. The film could have easily gone down the slapstick comedic route, but does an impressive job of incorporating elements of humor, drama and Cronenberg body-horror. Director Bobby Miller toys with various aspects of genre throughout his film, and the cast (including Oliver Platt as the cult-ish leader) does a fantastic job of staying true to their character. The Master Cleanse signifies just how difficult it can be to rid oneself of one’s own emotional baggage, as well as the importance of confronting your own personal demons head on before being open and vulnerable enough to be with someone else. Miller’s use of incorporating monster puppetry in his film shines light on how our flaws can be something we initially view as frightful and appalling, but later can come to accept as parts of us that complete the whole package and that we closely identify with. Although the ending comes as fairly abrupt and I think Gallner and Bang’s characters could have been fleshed out a little better, The Master Cleanse left me both laughing and considering how one’s imperfections aren’t necessarily an obstacle to achieving happiness.

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While on board a boat during a fishing trip in the Aegean Sea, six middle-aged men decide to partake in a game for the remainder of the trip – assigning each other points on any and every individual’s thought, behavior and action to deem who is the manliest, or simply “the best in general”. The game’s loose rules and utter subjectivity result in each character trying to one-up the next with its deadpan comedy and experimentation. Director Athina Rachel Tsangari adds tension with the film’s setting taking place on a boat surrounded by water for the entire duration, however after several of the men’s series of tests, the pacing of the film levels off and for the most part the audience can predict what will come next. There are certain subtleties questioning machismo embedded throughout the film; a simple jab at one’s cholesterol levels or how quickly one can put together IKEA furniture brings out the pettiness and insecurities in the character’s masculinities. Chevalier is an intelligent film, not going too far overboard to become completely absurd or unbelievable, but rather poses competitive scenarios between the male characters (aside from conversations via Skype and phone calls, the film is entirely void of female characters), compelling the audience to consider society’s irrational view of the male ego and manhood.

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Trish Connelly is the Austin-based guru who does booking and promoting at Cheer Up Charlies under The Nothing Song. She’s always down to collaborate and plan a show or event in town. She’s an expert with mixtapes (for all musicians out there you’ll want to send her your stuff!), and making connections with the cool kids. She may have a tad obsession with comics and Corgies, but she keeps it under control. You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.


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