The annual Marquee Film Festival took place in Union South over the weekend. Curated by the WUD Film Committee, the festival featured 12 screenings that included independent, foreign and documentary films, with genres ranging from comedies to thrillers.
Among these screenings was “Maggie’s Plan,” which played on Friday. Directed by Rebecca Miller, the film stars Greta Gerwig as Maggie, a woman who falls in love with a married man named John, played by Ethan Hawke. After a few years of marriage, Maggie realizes she doesn’t love John anymore, and creates a plan to get him back together with his ex-wife Georgette, played by Julianne Moore. Gerwig shines in her lead role, hitting both the comedic and dramatic beats throughout the film. Hawke and Moore are fine, but the other performance stood out to me was Bill Hader’s supporting role as Tony, Maggie’s friend from college. Hader already proved he has comedic chops throughout his time on “Saturday Night Live,” and that shows in this film.
While the film offers plenty of laughs, it doesn’t pack the emotional punch I was hoping for. The character arcs fall a little flat, offering no real takeaway message from the story. However, “Maggie’s Plan” is visually pleasing, with rich color palettes that enhance the tone, making for an fun experience overall.
On Saturday, the Marquee showed “Southside With You.” Directed by first-time director Richard Tanne, it recounts the story of Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson’s first date. It is a simple story, but it shows a specific point in time between two people who would become prominent figures in the United States. In light of such a divisive presidential campaign, the film reminded me that those who hold positions of power are real people with life stories just like anyone else. This message is a timely one to remember. The dialogue is a little too on the nose at times, but Parker Sawyers and Tika Sumpter play off one another adorably as Barack and Michelle, bringing charisma and heart to the roles.
Following “Southside With You” was “The Brand New Testament,” a co-production among Belgium, France and Luxembourg, directed by Jaco Van Dormael. The film imagines a world where God is a mean, grumpy man living in Brussels, Belgium. He creates humanity for the sole purpose of terrorizing them, using a computer to come up with cruel rules for humans to follow. In order to get back at him, God’s other child Ea releases to humanity the dates in which every person will die, and chaos ensues.
Van Dormael handles the film’s subject matter by emphasizing its satirical elements, effectively using biblical references as the punch line of jokes. The way the film is shot gives it an ethereal, dream-like quality, which complements the story well. Pili Groyne also delights Ea as she navigates the consequences of her decisions. The pacing gets a little slow in parts, but the film’s unpredictability held my attention. This is one of the most bizarre films I have ever seen, but its pointed humor and fantastical premise was enjoyable.
This year’s Marquee Film Festival brought several unique and entertaining screenings to Union South, exposing me to movies I had never heard of and directors I was unfamiliar with. The Marquee never disappoints, and the festival is a testament to this quality and diversity in programming.