The beef of this depression, live-action nation ballad is left as much as the creativeness, someplace within the lacking years between the identify credit and the purpose at which Michael Morris’s function debut in truth begins. It’s almost certainly simply as neatly, since To Leslie is a troublesome sufficient watch as it’s, no longer as it’s considerably miserable (redemption is recommended in myriad moments in its two-hour operating time) however as it’s a testomony to Andrea Riseborough’s by no means not up to dedicated efficiency that it’s arduous to peer the sort of unhappy and prone lady grasp defeat from the jaws of victory at each flip. There are not any indications on display, however anecdotal stories that screenwriter Ryan Binaco primarily based the script on his personal mom appear beautiful credible.
The credit are a mini-movie in themselves, to the sound of Right here I Am via Dolly Parton (SXSW’s patron saint this 12 months) we see a montage of circle of relatives snaps that appear to inform the unstated tale of a once-happy circle of relatives ripped aside via home abuse. There follows a grainy TV information clip through which our heroine, Leslie (Riseborough), celebrates successful $190k on a neighborhood lottery. What’s going to she do with it? “I dunno, possibly purchase a space, purchase somethin’ great for my boy, simply have a greater existence.” A surprising lower to a squalid motel room and a identify card studying “Six years later” means that none of that came about.
After being turfed out, Leslie’s first port of name is her teenage son James (Owen Teague), and her remedy of him is heartbreaking, stealing cash from his housemate and spending it on booze, regardless of promising him she’ll say sober. James makes a choice to his grandmother, a matriarchal, spiritual lady whose presence we really feel however by no means see, and shortly Leslie is on a bus again to her West Texan birthplace, the place she remains together with her “hilljack” kin Dutch (Stephen Root) and Nancy (Allison Janney). That is going to hell too, and after every other drunken evening out she wakes up out of doors a motel, the place the landlord, Sweeney (Marc Maron), reveals her in a shambolic state and shoos her away. In his place of business, Sweeney’s eccentric trade spouse Royal (Andre Royo) fills him in on Leslie’s unhappy tale, and in a have compatibility of compassion he gives her a task, because the motel’s cleaner.
For the primary hour, To Leslie is a discomfiting enjoy, as Leslie falls additional with each serving to hand, and by the point she meets Sweeney it’s conceivable that she would possibly screw up this chance too. If truth be told, she does, a number of instances, till in any case Leslie has a late-night epiphany courtesy of Willie Nelson. However can she keep on with her weapons? That is the ability of Riseborough’s paintings: she inhabits Leslie with out an oz of shallowness, and as deserving as Leslie is of our pity, Riseborough makes positive she works for it. Inebriated appearing is difficult to nail, however Riseborough does it (“She looks as if she was once rode arduous and hung up rainy,” quotes Nancy)—you’ll be able to nearly scent the booze as she flirts grotesquely in a cowboy bar and spits nails when her drunken advances are spurned. The locals play a component on this; on every occasion Leslie presentations her face in public, the tales of her misplaced wealth practice her in every single place, even if, as Leslie bitterly muses, $190k isn’t that a lot.
It’s arduous to understand somewhat who the target audience for Morris’s movie is, because it occupies an area normally taken via hybrid fiction movies akin to The Florida Venture or particularly Bloody Noses, Empty Wallet, which might nearly be a sister piece. Nevertheless it for sure paints a portrait; Morris’s use of nation tune is a bit of at the nostril on occasion, however on the other hand, nation tune itself is at all times at the nostril—it’s hardly ever one thing to seem to for nuance. Cinematographer Larkin Seiple very a lot is helping right here too; he shoots Leslie’s night-owl tours with delicate and sympathy: within the neon womb of a bar, Leslie can really feel secure—it’s the male predators that she must be cautious of, as we see with miserable regularity.
Taking part in the lone sort male in Leslie’s existence, Maron has his paintings lower out, however he’s a heat, touching presence, and he sells what would possibly differently had been a fully one-dimensional persona. He additionally makes positive this isn’t a one-woman display—which, given what he was once up towards, isn’t any imply feat—and reinforces the movie’s message: as Willie Nelson as soon as stated, “While you put your existence in a just right position, just right issues practice.”