'Diamond Tongues': Slamdance Review

Courtesy of Mongrel Media
This edgy drama dares to make its central character unlikable

A struggling actress descends into destructive behavior in Pavan Moondi and Brian Robertson's indie drama

Indie films usually depict aspiring actors in such noble terms that it's refreshing to encounter Diamond Tongues, about a struggling actress who's as unlikeable as she is compelling. Pavan Moondi and Brian Robertson's feature which recently received its world premiere at the Slamdance Film Festival resembles a modern-day All About Eve in its portrait of its lead character Edith Welland (Leah Goldstein), who descends into a downward spiral of destructive behavior, directed at both herself and others, in her desperate attempt to make it in an unforgiving industry. That she nonetheless emerges as all too relatable is a credit to Moondi's astute screenplay and the nerve-rattling performance by its lead performer, here making an auspicious acting debut.

The pixie-like Edith has been struggling for years to achieve some measure of success in the Toronto acting world, with her audition for a lead role in a sleazy horror film called Blood Sausage representing a major breakthrough. But even that turns out to be a bust, with her prospective co-star revealed to be her ex-boyfriend Ben (Adam Gurfinkel), who she recently broke up with to concentrate on her career and who has taken up acting on a whim.

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Reduced to sexually pleasuring herself while fantasizing about being interviewed on a television talk show (hosted by real-life popular Canadian media personality George Stromboloupolous), Edith is prone to lying to both herself and others. Her jealousy of her best friend Clare's (Leah Wildman) scoring a lead role in a play prompts her to attempt to sabotage it, and she begins to take risks in her romantic life, including a sordid assignation. Nor does she evidence any commitment to her craft, as evidenced by the casual manner with which she handles her would-be career.

The low-budget feature shot in Toronto provides a vivid depiction of the city's arts scene, with the soundtrack consisting of songs by such indie rock bands as Islands and Broken Social Scene adding greatly to the overall atmosphere.

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But it's Goldstein's performance that truly impresses. Inhabiting her frequently loathsome character with a fearsome commitment, the debuting actress (who performs as Leah Fay in the band July Talk) lays bare the insecurities and self-delusions of a young woman nearly unhinged by her obsessive quest for success.   

Production: Draper Street Films
Cast: Leah Goldstein, Nick Flanagan, Leah Wildman, Adam Gurfinkel
Director: Pavan Moondi, Brian Robertson
Screenwriter/editor: Pavan Moondi
Producers: Sarah Haywood, Brian Robertson, Pavan Moondi
Executive producers: Ari Lantos, Mark Musselman, Sarah Haywood, Brendan Canning, Daniel Bekerman, Jason Charters, Liam Romalis
Director of photography: Peter Dreimanis
Production designer: Brian Robertson
Composers: Brendan Canning, Ohad Benchetrit

No rating, 99 min.

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