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NEW YORK — Smartly tying global-warming fears to more intimate adolescent crises, writer/director Jenny Deller‘s Future Weather is a confident debut grounded by young Perla Haney-Jardine, thoroughly convincing as a teen struggling to make sense of an inhospitable world. Fest auds will embrace its fresh take on the coming-of-age tale; prospects for an arthouse run are strong.
Haney-Jardine plays Lauduree, whose single mother’s wrongheaded attempts to make her life special don’t stop at giving her that awkward name. She flees their Midwestern trailer home to pursue a makeup career in Hollywood, leaving Lauduree alone, with $50 to survive until Mom is successful enough to support them both.
Lauduree’s stubborn attempt to cope with this alone fails when she’s caught shoplifting an expensive compact-fluorescent lightbulb and grandmother Greta — Amy Madigan, fantastic as an unsentimental nurse more inclined to live her life than nurture her screw-up daughter’s kid — is forced to take responsibility for her.
Greta intends to move with her longtime boyfriend Ed (William Sadler) to Florida, and sees no choice but for Lauduree to come along. But despite Ed’s surprisingly sensitive attempts to make her feel at home (especially poignant coming from an actor often seen in gruff or sinister roles), Lauduree trusts one adult to the exclusion of all others: Her science teacher Ms. Markovi (Lili Taylor, perfectly cast), who nurtures her concern about climate change while serving as role model for smart, confident womanhood.
Some fest-goers have criticized the weight climate change gets in the dialogue, but Future Weather uses the theme to serve its characters, not the other way around. Lauduree’s passion for conservation and security clearly reflects her home life, and when she goes on tirades, or holds others to unrealistic standards, her sentiments aren’t the film’s: Her behavior embodies the adolescent need for absolute ideals and the tendency to conflate politics with personal frustration. Lauduree uses environmentalism as a way of setting herself apart from those around her, and her sense of betrayal will ring true for many self-aware idealists in the audience. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the tantrum she throws upon learning Ms. Markovi has a richer personal life than she realized — a moving scene that suits the film’s dramatic structure without feeling at all contrived.
The girl’s interaction with fellow student Neel (Anubhav Jain), a smart outcast both intimidated by and attracted to Lauduree, comes closer to being formulaic, but this subplot represents only a small part of Lauduree’s broader emotional landscape. Navigating that interior world via an unshowy but communicative performance, Haney-Jardine easily holds her own alongside actresses long accustomed to being more compelling than their costars.
Venue: Tribeca Film Festival, Tribeca Talks
Production Company: Lipstick Pictures
Cast: Amy Madigan, Lili Taylor, Perla Haney-Jardine, William Sadler, Marin Ireland, Anubhav Jain
Director-Screenwriter: Jenny Deller
Producers: Jenny Deller, Kristin Fairweather
Executive producers: Jennifer Dubin, Cora Olson
Director of photography: Zak Mulligan
Production designer: Gino Fortebuono
Music: Erik Friedlander
Costume designers: Amy Roth, Kelly Levine
Editors: Shelby Siegel, Jenny Deller
Sales: Ronna B. Wallace, Eastgate Pictures, LLC
No rating, 100 minutes
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