Day Out of Days | 2015 Los Angeles Film Festival Review
Days Go By: Cassavetes Returns with Industry Commentary
It’s a tale as old as cinema itself, the dismissive and apathetic attitude towards ageing women in a youth obsessed, commodified film industry. And yet, director Zoe Cassavetes manages to make her own worthwhile entry with Day Out of Days, a project conceived, developed, and co-written with lead actress Alexia Landeau. As impossibly difficult as the landscape is for an actress, the female director suffers comparable obstacles in sustaining a lucrative filmmaking career, and it’s been eight years since Cassavetes made her stunningly eloquent debut with 2007’s Broken English, a film featuring Parker Posey in a career best turn. Whatever the cause of the hiatus (though she’s turned out several short films in the interim), this sophomore feature is a more than welcome return from a director with a particular knack for capturing characters at a difficult crossroads. A generous love letter to its lead actress, Cassavetes turns potentially draining, cynical truths into a warm character study.
Doing publicity on her new movie Wild Sunset, thirty year old actress Mia Roarke (Alexia Landeau) discusses her celebrity status and high profile marriage to actor Liam (Alessandro Nivola). She projects her life ten years into the future, a point in time we succinctly skip to. Mia’s career has floundered significantly since her earlier success, with Liam about to marry another high profile actress. Struggling to remain relevant, Mia finds herself subjected to degrading measures, with her hopeless agent Anabel (Brooke Smith) sending her to thankless auditions for provocative European art-house projects every major actress has already passed on, or through the grueling casting process for ‘kooky’ bit parts on television series. As more and more chances for a major come back slip away, Mia finds herself hungering for the past that seemed so perfect, but finds it impossible to reclaim what she once had.
As an assessment of Hollywood’s treatment not only towards women but cinema itself, Day Out of Days succeeds in underscoring the point that it’s a wonder anything genuine gets produced at all in a world full of double crossings, backstabbing, and frustratingly petty behavior. David Cronenberg gave us a similar, albeit ridiculously hysterical portrait of this in Maps to the Stars (2014), featuring a similar projection concerning a forgotten actress desperate for a comeback. But Cassavetes sidesteps easy confrontation for her own offbeat tune, and it’s impossible not to recall her cinematic lineage, and compare this to something like John Cassavetes’ Opening Night (1977), at least superficially. But Mia’s trajectory and eventual epiphany harken back to a more vintage era of aging women. She quotes famous lines from Davis and Bacall in the bathroom mirror, and her struggles aren’t dissimilar from women in films like All About Eve (1950) or even The Star (1952).
As Mia, Alexia Landeau is pitch perfect, warmly empathetic in her struggle to navigate an uncomfortable amount of degradation, and from nearly every conceivable angle. Other women are as viciously unappealing as men here, with casting directors and agents (an absolutely wonderful Brooke Smith) sometimes outshining their male counterparts in the misogyny department. Eddie Izzard appears with a smarmy Germanic lilt for a coke-fueled nightmare of a casting audition at the appropriately placed Chateau Marmont, and a handful of other notables briefly figure throughout the landscape, like Alessandro Nivola as the high profile ex, Vincent Kartheiser as an asshole film director, Cheyenne Jackson as her Botox boasting buddy, and an intriguing Melanie Griffith as her pill-popping, co-dependent mother.
Landeau, perhaps best known for her stint as Julie Delpy’s sister in 2 Days in Paris and 2 Days in New York (which she also co-wrote), as well as a role in Xan Cassavetes’ Kiss of the Damned, is a discovery here. Assisted by an excellent score from Scratch Massive (they also appeared on Broken English), Cassavetes turns the seedy ambience of Hollywood’s neon glow into a collection of visually hypnotic vignettes.
Much like the protagonist of Broken English, Mia is a woman who has outgrown the trappings of a manufactured paradigm she no longer fits into. Tired of fixating on the lost opportunities to obtain the career she so greatly desires, her epiphany for reinvention instead results in something better—enjoying those moments and chances appearing when one least expects them. Intelligently written, Cassavetes and Landeau have concocted a critique of the film industry feeling regrettably concise. But it’s not been made without a glow of affectionate compassion and a love for those beautiful bits of celluloid stitched together from the passionate sweat of their makers.
Reviewed on June 14 at the 2015 Los Angeles Film Festival. LA Muse – 93 Mins.