Review: Memorable characters and the capacity to shock ground indie theatre ‘Beast’
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Youthful self-expression is a joyride in a minefield in Danny Madden’s “Beast, ” an adrenalized, tone-shifting indie bringing the technology-fueled lives of three provincial souls of varying conditions, hopes and concerns directly into pathways destined to converge.
Our summary of Madden’s trio of fresh-faced, still-forming characters is via self-shot video of their interests. Outgoing, born-to-perform high-schooler Krista (Shirley Chen) is the vitalized center of her movie theater class, her phone digital camera always handy to help hone a monologue or movement piece. New classmate Nito (Jose Angeles) is a soft-spoken skateboarder with a friendly demeanor and uploads that display his skills. Krista’s next-door neighbor is clean-cut and serious Adam (Will Madden, the director’s brother), at 24 still living in your own home, and a weapons enthusiast vlogger desperate for social media stardom using the guns-and-patriotism crowd (and as a result successful in his parents’ eyes).
What do we know of anybody from a fragment of life they’ve decided to record for an imagined great grandchildren? More urgently, what are the wishes for those whose requirement for fulfillment via attention isn’t always thoughtfully considered? Madden navigates this world of cultivated personality, pressure, alienation plus exuberance with admirable level of sensitivity and stylish zeal, the camerawork and editing an appealing grab bag of naturalistic energy and subjective flashiness.
Then the cautionary tale messaging asserts itself more, and “Beast” begins to feel only a few steps taken off after-school special territory. A person won’t be surprised where it’s headed, in other words, even if the bluntness of the swerve toward violence still has the power to shock.
Exactly what saves the clunky closing act from being dilutive, however , are the performances: the untapped grit with which Chen shades Krista’s relentless pluck; Angeles’ mix of melancholy and charm; and Will Madden’s studious avoidance of caricature in portraying a type we’ve most of doing our best to make feeling of from too many head lines. For all the movie’s soupiness, we’re still left with a handful of memorable characters at a pivotal amount of time in their emotional development, and for that, “Beast” may boast a well-intentioned, nurturing integrity.
Not really rated
Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
Playing: Starts April 30, Laemmle Noho 7, Northern Hollywood; and Laemmle Virtual Cinema