Blush

 

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A film with an individual voice and fine actors. 

 
Blush
  

Debra Eisenstadt's fourth feature finds the writer/director starting out with great assurance as she depicts the sense of dissatisfaction in the life of a suburban American wife. This is Cathy played by Wendi McLendon-Covey who is a new to me but well known for her appearances in comedy roles on television. It has been emphasised that the character of Cathy marks a change of pace for her and Eisenstadt quickly establishes the extent to which Cathy's life has become a matter of daily routine. This is achieved by quick editing, a recurrent look at some of her repetitive procedures and - unexpectedly but effectively - the rush of notes in Chopin's Scherzo No. 1 for piano heard on the soundtrack. A not unfamiliar mid-life crisis is involved as Cathy feels herself increasingly distanced from her husband (Steve Little), at odds with her schoolgirl daughter, Tara (Kate Alberts) and aware that the time when she could have had a career and a life extending beyond home duties has passed.

 

Having thus set the scene, Eisenstadt goes on to show how Cathy becomes involved with a family who have recently moved in to live next door to her sister (Catherine Curtin). She first encounters the unstable Gemma Jean (Christine Woods) who, despite having to go into rehab, attracts her by living a much less conventional life. Gemma Jean's estranged husband, Paul (Graham Sibley) then turns up and briefly seduces Cathy, but even more disturbing is what happens between her and Xander, the couple's 15-year-old son (Max Burkholder). In the absence of his parents she seeks to look after him and he becomes decidedly flirtatious with her. Blush, a film originally known as Imaginary Order, sees things through Cathy's eyes and has a pronounced female perspective, but even so the relationship between Cathy and Xander is in many ways central to it. As such there are times when Blush plays like a variation on the classic Charles Webb novel The Graduate: indeed, one can see it as inverting the central situation in that work by making the youngster the one who, although now very young, is setting out to seduce and showing the middle-aged Cathy as the somewhat bemused and uneasy target.

 

The first half of Blush is convincing enough to suggest a dramatic tale that might have been played as melodrama but which escapes that by being handled with a comparatively light touch. Then, as the complications build, one feels that the tone is becoming increasingly that of ironic comedy. It may stop short of turning into black comedy but the balance between the humour and the persuasive emotional realities is sometimes uneasy: especially in the second half these elements can seem in conflict. That said, the film is very well cast and much of the writing is very good indeed. If the husbands are relatively minor figures here, in contrast the characterisation of Xander is particularly adroit and further enhanced by Max Burkholder's performance which is spot on. As I have indicated, Blush is not always surefooted and it may be that my rating is a shade generous but the good parts of it certainly far outweigh its weaker moments. Ultimately it may seem to settle for a conventional upbeat resolution, but even then Eisenstadt has one more trick up her sleeve with a splendidly open-ended coda.

 

Original title: Imaginary Order.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Wendi McLendon-Covey, Max Burkholder, Kate Alberts, Christine Woods, Steve Little, Catherine Curtin, Graham Sibley, Kate Blumberg, Anna Lamadrid, Ted Elrick, Meredith Michal, Tu Morrow.

 

Dir Debra Eisenstadt, Pro Debra Eisenstadt, Timur Bekbosunov, Cosmos Kiindarius and Peter Wong, Screenplay Debra Eisenstadt, Ph Frank Tymezuk, Pro Des Adele Caine, Ed Debra Eisenstadt and Clark Harris, Music Mel Elias, Costumes Kris Deskins.

 

ACE Pictures Entertainment/In Motion Pictures/Iron City-Bohemia Media.
104 mins. USA. 2019. Rel: 22 February 2021. Available on VOD. Cert. 15.