Spring Movie Review
Written by Angry Scholar
Directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead
Written by Justin Benson
2015, 109 minutes, Not Rated
Released on March 20th, 2014
Lou Taylor Pucci as Evan
Nadia Hilker as Louise
Evan's mom just died, and then Evan beat the crap out of a guy at the bar where he works, and now he needs to skip town. So he goes to Italy, where he meets a beautiful woman named Louise. He gets a job working on an olive farm, and as he settles in he begins to realize that Louise isn't what she appears to be.
Spring is in part a creature feature, and the creature aspect is sort of a midpoint between Species and The Island of Dr. Moreau. We quickly learn that Louise is some sort of shapeshifter, not evil, but not entirely in control of her condition. Evan learns this much later, of course, and blithely pursues the lovely Louise right up until the inevitable moment of truth when he catches her mid-transformation. Then her pursues her some more because romance.
The film deliberately defies genre expectations, falling somewhere between romance, horror and scifi, but the balance of it is romance. It's about a broken guy pursuing a mysterious mystical lady, which may be clichéd and may reinforce gender norms and may generally fail to excite postmodern sensibilities, but works fairly well just the same. Louise's monstrous transformations are very much a backdrop to the drama between her and Evan, a drama which is ultimately way more interesting than the monster stuff (a combination of words I never thought I would utter, monsters being freaking awesome).
Spring has a little bit of that ulra-hip style of dialogue that seems to be in these days. Everybody's delivery is just so good and everyone is so impossibly hip and we are all such dry wits, mmmmyes. But somehow it works here. The whole cast, even the small supporting roles, turns in great performances. There are also a number of moments of real humor, which is particularly surprising given the dark and violent notes the film strikes early on. In the denouement the dialogue veers a little bit too far into Juno territory, with every other line verging on the impossible in terms of sheer sarcastic unlikeliness (nobody speaks like that off the cuff); but for the most part it's very good.
The revelation of Louise's true nature is something of a letdown, but it gets points for novelty. Louise is a scientist and has a clinically perfect understanding of her own condition, which is an interesting change of pace; but it also lessens some of the urgency which a werewolf-esque scenario might otherwise involve. The explanation she offers feels rather slapdash, like a half-formed Star Trek-style pseudoscientific discussion of bouncing quasars off of black holes into a tachyon field-except here it's, like, stem cells and some vague stuff about evolution.
The whole thing starts to feel somewhat goofy precisely when Evan sees Louise in monster mode. Rather than being terrified or disgusted, Evan feels hurt because he thinks Louise isn't being honest with him. And in the space of ten minutes he's gone through all the stages of grief, so to speak, and decides he wants to work it out with his monster girlfriend. I'm not sure that's a plausible human reaction in a situation like this. (Then again, the situation itself isn't all that plausible, so who can say.)
Ultimately Spring might actually have worked better without the monster stuff. Louise could have been an international criminal or something, and absolutely everything else could have remained the same, and the piece as a whole would have felt more unified. The monster bit relies too much on weird science-weird smarmy science, too smug and self-assured to match the tone of the rest of the film. The human interactions are by far the most interesting. In fact, some of my favorite moments come quite early in the film, when Evan is palling around Italy with a couple of loud drunken British guys.
But these issues aside, the film works. Lou Taylor Pucci gives a believable, sympathetic performance as Evan, an everyman with maybe a bit of a violent side but essentially good intentions. Nadia Hilker toes the line of over-the-topness but manages to stay within the realm of believability as the seductive Louise. The darkly wondrous atmosphere of most of the film is pleasantly reminiscent of Pan's Labyrinth, and the forbidden/monstrous love nicely echoes Let the Right One In. So in case this point was lost in all that nitpicking: this is a good movie, and you should see it.
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