It is tempting and completely wrong to say Jamie Adams’”Love spreads”On a shelf next to it Alex Ross Perry‘s “Your smell”: Both films focus on petty, personal rifts that widen between members of all-female rock bands, and the former, like the latter, initially seems to deal with toxic lead singers who are cursed with too much ego after tasting their success. But “Love Spreads” is about early success, the success preparing a band for a second album, and all the pressure that comes with putting out a hit record and expecting them to make another; Characters behave monstrously against one another, yes, but the film is not a character study. It’s an industry study.
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As a double function, “Her Smell” could well be combined with “Love Spreads”, if only for reasons of contrast in aesthetics, intentions and focus. Love Spreads doesn’t care about the stereotype of the difficult genius, even if there is genius in the story and even if it is actually a challenge; this is Kelly (Alia Shawkat), the front woman of indie rock group Glass Heart, together with bandmate Jess (Chanel Cresswell), Hazel (Ruth Ollmann) and Alice (Tara Lee), hid together in a recording studio in England’s most remote rural areas. Kelly unraveled. The stakes are too high. She is haunted by the cold of the artistic process, cursed by writer’s block and a stubbornness that forbids her to let her colleagues in, to give their insights, advice or notes. As a result, their ability to tolerate stress is practically nil.
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So when Alice comes up with the idea of recording her own songs on the new record, since Kelly doesn’t write any – she can hardly get out of bed, let alone compose music or write lyrics – Kelly reacts as if Judas has just told her why a kiss is necessary. Adams uses their interaction as the animating drama of the film; Kelly sees it as a shocking betrayal, and everyone else sees it as a relief. At least someonemake music. Now the record can take shape, and weeks spent in isolated, idyllic purgatory can mean something! Last but not least!
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All of this happens about half an hour after Love Spreads, with another hour for Adams to tell a story, so of course the rest is not that easy; he does not allow his audience to leave the premises except for short trips to the local pub, and Glass Heart’s creative downturn does not suddenly dissolve. That is the point. “Love Spreads” maintains a high tempo, moves resolutely from beat to beat without putting an end to any of them: Adams gets what he needs from every scene and cuts to the next, cut for effect instead of continuity. “Love Spreads” feels episodic, like an LP in itself, where every moment flows into the other, but is connected by spontaneity. Think of the movie as a playlist. (Hey: That’s the name of the page.)
Mike Hopkins asserts the secure feeling of control over “love spreads” in the cut, makes up for Kelly’s lack of self-control on the other side of the lens: Where it is unpredictable and sags, Hopkins’ cuts are made on purpose. He knows what he is doing. But when it comes to filmmaking too, “Love Spreads” enjoys looseness, a relaxed, hand-held aesthetic; Adams and his cameraman, Ryan Eddleston, shoot for a hangout vibe, then add levels of disagreement through dialogue. We’re in the same room as these characters, watching smoke turn into fire and helpless to do anything about it. The best we can hope for is that the fire doesn’t turn into a flame. Being a fly on the wall rarely feels so uncomfortable.
Eddleston keeps the camera close to his subjects, especially Shawkat’s curled up, twitching body language, his work helping to create a restrictive presence in a plot that is characterized by layers of containment. Contrasted with how tightly everyone is wrapped in the movie, maybe Mark is (Nick Helm), especially the manager of the band. If he doesn’t give in to Kelly’s delusions of wronging Alice, he’ll get hey chewed out from Kelly, and if Kelly’s attention is elsewhere, or if she lies down, he could conflict with his boss at the record company. The poor fool can’t win. Daily phone calls with his wife Julie (Dolly Wells), document his own mental strength when Glass Heart begins to splinter.
If Kelly needs to have a “good” reason to be royal thrill, creative obstacles are as good as reasons outside of “rampant drug use” or “dead relatives.” But Kelly, a by-product of Adams’ approach to observation, does not judge “Love Spreads” very much and examines the machine that Kelly, Jess, Alice, Hazel, Mark and finally Patricia (Eiza González), a pinch hitter sent by the record label to grease the wheels at Glass Heart’s songwriting standstill, are all part of it. The music business is tough. Kelly’s dumbing ego and the resulting catatonia come from nowhere. If dollars, lots of dollars, more precisely lots from someone else Dollars, are at stake, and when you are young and feel like millions of eyes are on you as you try to outdo yourself, you may suffer a little breakdown.
Kelly doesn’t demonize “Love Spreads”. It feels to be with her and her friends, although the film never completely lets her off the hook, either. Ultimately, the criticism is of the larger ecosystem in which they live. The drama stems from their efforts to assert the self-determination that the circumstances of their success have inadvertently denied them. The effect of the message and the medium is simple and ruthless; the parting is surprisingly uplifting. Overall, the package is remarkable. [B+]
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