Friday, May 15, 2020

Selah and the Spades (2020)

Streaming Service: Amazon Prime Video
Movie Name/Year: Selah and the Spades (2020)
Genre: Drama
Length: 97 minutes
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Argent Pictures, Novel Pictures, MVMT, Cinereach, Secret Engine, Amazon Studios, Amazon Prime Video
Director: Tayarisha Poe
Writer: Tayarisha Poe
Actors: Lovie Simone, Jharrel Jerome, Celeste O’Connor, Ana Mulvoy Ten, Jesse Williams, Nekhebet Kum Juch, Evan Roe, Francesca Noel, Henry Hunter Hall, Gina Torres, Krish Bhuva, Greyson Cage, Benjamin Breault, Cody Sloan, Ali Fisher, Rae Bell, Melissa McMeekin, Kenneth Isreal, Debbie Aboaba, Jessie Cannizzaro, Luis G. Nuñez

Blurb from IMDb: Five factions run the underground life of Haldwell School, a prestigious east coast boarding school. At the head of the most powerful faction - The Spades - sits Selah Summers, walking the fine line between being feared and loved.

Selina’s Point of View:
I am supremely disappointed.

I had incredibly high hopes for Selah and the Spades. The trailers that I saw when I got my Top 20 together were promising, to say the least. They were beautiful, from a cinematic perspective, and they showed depth in the movie’s main character and setting. It looked amazing.

A lot of the time when a film doesn’t live up to my expectations, I can blame my expectations. I don’t think that’s the case here.

The first issue I had was with the acting – though I’ll admit that I don’t know if it was the acting itself or the direction of the actors. Usually, it’s easy to tell the difference, but not here.

The actors were not inherently bad. It’s more that there was a quality to the acting that felt overly choreographed. Now, because the main character had an obsession with being perfect – that may have been a direction choice. If it was, I understand why Tayarisha Poe (Two Sentence Horror Stories, Honey and Trombones, Guisado on Sunset) would go that way, I just don’t think it worked. It kept pulling me out of the movie.

Since the manner of acting pulled me out of it, I couldn’t connect. That means I was bored throughout most of it. It was an hour and a half film and I felt every single minute of its runtime so much that it felt longer.

Then, in the ending, there’s no pay off. There’s no reward for sitting through the whole thing. The characters experience no real arc. Not only that, but the climax is muted and the denouement is so rushed and overlooked that it feels like there was no ending at all. The story just cuts out before there’s any satisfaction for the viewer.

By the time I closed out of the window, I felt like I had wasted my time. The story and the plot had so much potential and the film itself was aesthetically gorgeous. I wanted to come away from it in awe. I would have settled for just a basic level of enjoyment. Instead, I’m left shaking my head.

I want to see more from Poe. I want to see her grow and watch future films that might showcase the actual potential she has.

Cat’s Point of View:
Selah and the Spades was my #14 pick for April 2020’s list of new movies releasing directly to the internet. I can’t guarantee that it would have made my Top 20 list if the coronavirus pandemic hadn’t brought mainstream studio releases to a near standstill.

There was something compelling about the trailer I watched in my decision-making process. Herein lies the crux of several of my problems with the movie.

Trailers are so important – they are what gets the message of a movie crammed into a nutshell and to the masses of its target audience. It’s what keeps us from judging solely by the poster. Many of us don’t like to think that we judge a book by its cover – even though we do, often. I’m not telling you something you don’t already know, though. I just have to stress that the trailer you watch before you view this film will likely color your experience of it.

There are at least 3 trailers for this movie. While, ultimately, the monologue featured in the trailer I watched does encompass the theme of the movie’s plot, it doesn’t give a well-rounded view of the film. Viewers would be better served by either of the others.

I was expecting something along the lines of a feminist movement among the student population against some sort of patriarchal misogyny. Nope. That’s not what was going on here.

Unfortunately, the film meanders around so slowly that it doesn’t really give itself a chance. The usual drama and manipulations and jockeying for the position of in-charge of the most popular group that can be found in most teen and young-adult school-based productions are present here. Nothing new or exciting really jumped out at me. The score almost led me to believe I could expect some sort of jump-scare around the corner due to tonal tension building. Alas, this wasn’t a teen horror movie in disguise – at least, not in the traditional sense.

To be fair, there were some really amazing visuals. Unfortunately, I can’t point them out for the sake of spoilers, but the one of the trailers gives some of it away – so be warned. Another bright note was that the issues I have with this film don’t fall to the acting. I think everyone did a great job with what they had to work with.

Some layers of the plot give a bit more depth to what’s going on and the overall theme of control, but blink and you might miss it. 

I think one of the parts I had the most issue with would be the ending. The movie closes at such an unfinished moment that it left me rather aggravated.

I did note that there is a series in pre-production with the same name as the movie. I can only hope that it shores up the faults of this first project and gives a resolution to the conclusion of this film. I’ll do my best to reserve further judgment until that series is released, but I doubt that I could recommend this movie in good faith until then.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 89%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 63%
Metascore – 69/100
Metacritic User Score – 2.8/10
IMDB Score – 4.5/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating2/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating2/5

Movie Trailer:

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