Thirty years ago, Jennifer Fox won the grand jury award at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival for her documentary "Beirut: The Last Home Movie," engaging with sexually positive and progressively feminist themes in her later work of not fiction, most notably "Flying: Confessions of a Free Woman". Both, a natural extension of Fox's career to date and a complete return, "The Tale" marks his first narrative feature film, but only because the traditional documentary would not do him justice, for the incidents he represents, an investigation into his first experience sexual traumatic, it is true, "at least as far as I know".
At least with respect to the actress Laura Dern, expressing the proviso timidly expressed in that Fox is taller and blonde, but no less independent screen proxy. Long a supporter of the project, Dern plays Jennifer, an intrepid 50-ish documentary filmmaker who was interrupted while on the scene by agitated voice messages from her mother (Ellen Burstyn), who seems genuinely upset after discover a decades-old tale that Jennifer wrote in 13 years, detailing how her riding instructor (played by Elizabeth Debicki) and head coach (Jason Ritter) allegedly conspired to deflower her.
Except that it is not at all how Jennifer remembers the "relationship", that she was kept hidden from her mother for her own reasons. In Jennifer's memory, that first love was something beautiful, an elaborate secret shared between her and two very special adults. As the Sundance films say, "The Tale" is a harsh rebuttal to last year's "Call Me by Your Name," which reveled in the way memories embellish and preserve the best part of our youth's experiences, sometimes hurtful The perspectives on the sexual awakening of adolescents are a great advance to show how complicated the problem can be.
After returning to her flat in New York, Jennifer, single and sexually active, now lives with a mentally supportive black man, played by Common – she finally sits down to read her teenage story, which her mother sent her ( Fox actually wrote a piece for the class, receiving an "A" from what must have been a very restless English teacher). Instead of reading it all the time, she simply takes samples of the first few paragraphs, setting up a system by which Fox can parcel out brief flashbacks in the next two hours.
Examination so ambitiously structured almost certainly would not have occurred to Fox before Charlie Kaufman went with "Adaptation" and "Synecdoche, New York", but unlike those films (which play with self-reflexive questions of artistic ambition and commitment), Fox is not posing as his own therapist but a new type of private investigator, drawn from his own documentary research skills to discover this half-forgotten chapter of his own past, not unlike the way the journalist of the New York Times David Carr made "the darkest story of his own life" in "The Night of The Gun."
Although Fox's writing process was clearly based on a large number of his old photographs, letters and personal artifacts (many of which appear in the final credits), the unusual presentation is based almost entirely on recreation, which playfully manipulates according to the caprice s of his own memory. The most effective, the recount begins with an actress, Jessica Sarah Flaum, playing Jenny. Flaum seems closer in age to the teenage actresses who have played Lolita on the screen over the years (Sue Lyon, Dominique Swain) than the 12-year-old character that Vladimir Nabakov described in his novel. But then Burstyn shows Jennifer a photo of him taken that summer, at age 13, and Fox is forced to revise her memory, reproducing the scenes with a younger actress, Isabelle Nélisse, 11, on the paper.
"The Tale" is hella meta, culminating in a scene in which Dern and Nélisse sit side by side in the same room, and would not have been a bit out of place for the film to go back a more grade to reveal to Fox., while she screams "cut" and the camera moves away from the scene to show the director on stage with his two doubles. This is how recent docu-fiction hybrids such as "Casting JonBenet" and his Sundance partner "American Animals" have transmitted their own conscience, although Fox seems to be looking for something closer to "Stories We Tell" by Sarah Polley, while building opportunities so that Jennifer enters into her own memories, such as when she interrogates Mrs. G, her former riding teacher, both in person, a weak shell from her previous beauty, and in an imaginary camera of her mind, where Mrs. G Hasn a day.
Although Debicki has impressed through small roles in important films ("The Great Gatsby", "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2"), this is her most impressive performance to date, both seductive and sinister. she sits rigidly erect, looking at the audience from behind her cold alabaster façade. Like Coach Bill, Ritter does not look anything like an athletic champion, but he has a cute little boy next door that effectively masks what his character is capable of doing. Who can say if these actors-or the way their characters are written-represent just the real life of Bill and Mrs. G (whose names have been changed to protect not the innocent, but the filmmaker, for fear of being sued for slander)? Men have excused, explained, degraded or denied their experiences for too long, and now it is Fox's prerogative to tell his story as he sees fit, building a confrontation with Bill in the present (now played by John Heard) that is not as cathartic for us as it must have been for her, but, again, "The Tale" is her story .
If Fox goes too far in some aspect, it's the degree to which he insists on recreating those teen sexual encounters, using bodily doubles and trick effects to fool the otherwise convincing impression that Nélisse is being subjected to the same humiliations she suffered as a child. Not from "Mysterious Skin" (another vintage Sundance title, that ingeniously elevated by a director who did not survive the abuse itself) has a film so ironically "gone there", and yet this insistence on not shying away from what really happened it somehow complicates the broader strategy of questioning Fox's memory of events.
Unfortunately, Fox's trauma is a story as old as time, and yet, women only now find the opportunity to tell it or, moreover, The point is that society is just beginning to listen and believe in his stories. Although many believe that the #MeToo revolution is nothing more than a passing fantasy, which will be extinguished as soon as the media finds another driver to distract their interest, history will show that they are wrong: when it comes to women who have those who have harassed and sexually abused them, the Reckoning is just beginning, and the chosen form of Fox's cinematic memory is in its infancy. Possibly, there could be as many "The Tales" counted as there are "victims" -a word that Fox / Jennifer / Jenny reject furiously- and now that the public is opening their minds to these annoying personal narratives, the Fox movie is nothing more than the first in a new genre, and the beginning of a much needed conversation.
Sundance Film Review: & # 39; The Tale & # 39;
Reviewed in the Sundance Film Festival (competition), January 20, 2018. Duration: 114 MIN.  Production :
A Gamechanger Films, A Luminous Mind, Untitled Entertainment, Blackbird, One Two Films, production of Fork Films, in co-production with ZDF, in collaboration with Arte. (International sales: Mongrel Media, Toronto.) Producers: Oren Moverman, Lawrence Inglee, Laura Rister, Jennifer Fox, Mynette Louie, Sun Bondy, Simone But, Regina K. Scully, Lynda Weinman. Executive Producers: Julie Parker Benello, Dan Cogan, Geralyn Dreyfous, Wendy Ettinger, Abigail E. Disney, Robert Fox, Penny Fox, Jayme Lemons, Amy Roddrigue, Ali Jazayeri, Jason Van Eman, David Van Eman, Ross Marroso, Ben McConley. Co-executing producers: Steven Cohen, Patty Quillin. Co-producers: Reka Posta, Marc Almon, Jamila Wenske.
Directed, written by Jennifer Fox, based on the story of Jenny Fox, 13 years old. Camera (color): Denis Lenoir, Ivan Strasburg. Editors: Alex Hall, Gary Levy, Anne Fabini. Music: Ariel Marx.
Laura Dern, Isabelle Nélisse, Elizabeth Debicki, Jason Ritter, Frances Conroy, John Heard, Common, Ellen Burstyn.