'Daddy Issues': Film Review | Outfest 2018

Daddy Issues Still 1 - Under 1 Roof Productions - Publicity-H 2018
Courtesy of Under 1 Roof Productions
Naughty but nice.

Amara Cash’s queer dramedy spins a tale of romance and betrayal, anchored by an unlikely love triangle.

Giddy first love gets bizarrely complicated in Amara Cash's debut feature, a queer dramedy with a couple of kinky plot twists. Mildly amusing and not without a certain slyly subversive perspective on alternative lifestyles, Daddy Issues will certainly see further play on the LGBTQ festival circuit and may even resurface on niche streaming services at some point.

When nobody gets you, life's a total drag — just ask Maya (Madison Lawlor), a cute 20-something aspiring digital artist fond of platinum pink wigs and multicolored eye shadow. Stuck living at home in Orange County with her clueless, cruelly condescending mom (Kamala Jones), who specializes in snide putdowns referencing Maya's artwork, sexual orientation and boho lifestyle, she's left dreaming of making an escape to art school that never materializes. Text messaging with her friends and following other creatives on Instagram provides some validation, especially when she's catching up with the exploits of super-popular Los Angeles social media diva and fashion designer Jasmine (Montana Manning).

On a whim, she decides to make a beeline for L.A. and crash one of Jasmine’s notoriously decadent, artsy soirees. Without any clear plan, Maya manages to ingratiate herself with her idol, although designer cannabis and top-shelf booze might be influencing Jasmine's judgment as much as Maya’s coy charm. In any case, a spontaneous night spent together succeeds in lighting the romantic flame, sending Maya to cloud nine. Jasmine, however, has her own agenda, which prioritizes her kinky age-play relationship with sugar daddy Simon (Andrew Pifko), a single, self-medicating surgeon who pays the rent on Jasmine's apartment and a generous allowance besides. No way she's going to sacrifice all that, even for a pixie dream girl like Maya, but lingering daddy issues may eventually trip them both up.

Working from a script by Alex Bloom, Cash gets in a bit over her head attempting to stage the ludicrously unlikely plot twist that brings Maya, Jasmine and Simon together in a far-fetched love triangle. If the film's tone had bordered more on dark comedy, it might have worked, but for a mild-mannered dramedy, it's just too much of a stretch to incorporate alongside the blossoming of the women's relationship.   

Cash's directing skills align somewhat better, setting Maya's dreamy pastel-and-rainbow-colored artistic reverie against Jasmine's commercially focused fashion sense. Lawlor makes for a passable ingenue in her quest for Jasmine's favor, although as tensions mount between the two, her weepy objections to Jasmine's avowed polysexuality ring rather false. Manning's straightforward take on relationship dynamics proves both refreshing and empowering, making Jasmine the center of every character's attention and desire.

Although she seems primarily concerned with whether conflicting views of sexuality can be reconciled in a committed relationship, Cash dresses the issues up in so many layers of cuteness that the message practically gets smothered by the candy-colored cinematography and insistent indie-pop soundtrack.

Production company: Under 1 Roof Productions
Cast: Madison Lawlor, Montana Manning, Andrew Pifko, Kamala Jones, Jodi Carol Harrison, Seth Cassel, Ronnie Clark, Lissa Danshaw, J.J. Hawkins, Brian Gilleece, Monte Markham
Director: Amara Cash
Screenwriter: Alex Bloom
Producer: Jenna Cedicci
Executive producer: Alex Bloom
Director of photography: Nico Aguilar
Production designer: Kendra Bradanini
Costume designer: Gwyn Conaway
Editor: Amara Cash
Music: Patrick Ridgen, Maxton Waller

88 minutes