Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Commune (Elisabeth Fies, 2009)

Despite a shocking opening that turns Sophocles on his head, 2009's The Commune quickly turns itself into a family melodrama that seems too familiar, but is also too alluring to dismiss.   Spotlighting pretty, blonde Jenny (Chauntal Lewis), an adolescent in full "You just don't understand" mode who doesn't want to spend her 16th birthday away from her best buds.  Mom (played by writer-director Elisabeth Fies) has had enough of her daughter's hormonally charged, emotional hemorrhaging and needs some time to herself.  So off Jenny goes, to visit her visit her estranged father at his commune in the mountains.  

Writer Elisabeth Fies  populates the world of The Commune with an adroitly written cast of familiar characters.  Her single mother has had enough of being over worked and under appreciated, while teen aged Jenny masks her fear of the unknown with anger and resentment.  The father is both remorseful and unapologetic for neglecting his daughter for much of her life.

 Once Jenny is away from home and friends, Fies quickly starts knocking out the almost stereotypical tropes she started with, until, like a crooked Jenga tower, the entire family and accompanying drama, collapse in pile of horror filled, Greek style tragedy.

Independently made on a modest budget, The Commune unfolds its real story in its own time.  Just when the movie seems comfortably headed towards familiar territory, the direction changes into areas that horror films (or family melodramas) seldom go.

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