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Quendrith Johnson


Quendrith Johnson is filmfestivals.com Los Angeles Correspondent covering everything happening in film in Hollywood... Well, the most interesting things, anyway.
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LAFF DAY 3: HANGOVER's Rachel Harris Breaks Out in NATURAL SELECTION

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

 

Later on, we'll carry an exclusive interview with THE HANGOVER's Rachel Harris who jumps off the screen into a new "Leading Lady" phase in her career in NATURAL SELECTION.  But right now this movie, director Robbie Pickering's autobiographical valentine to his mother, demands some attention. 

Invoking Darwin in the title, NATURAL SELECTION presents a universe where a "Lady" who does everything right gets everything wrong, when she tries to intervene after her husband has a paralyzing stroke.

 

In a nutshell, Rachel Harris as Linda is a harried, browbeaten housewife in a Christian separatist community who holds a secret from her past that leads to discovery about her husband's long-time double life, which will unravel her spiritual center, uncover her true self (both personally and sexually) and lead Linda full circle into a place of clarity and grace. And to Florida, which is a nice touch.

 

NATURAL SELECTION is Pickering's first feature film, but it has all the complexity of a moment movie that holds up a mirror to the current American Psyche. 

 

What does this mean exactly? 

 

Imagine the political fastballs of the prison system, religion, abortion, sperm donation, adultery, suburbia, drug addiction, poverty, and youth violence all wrapped neatly into a redemptive film that makes us ask some moving questions about who we are as people.

Questions posed by NATURAL SELECTION?  'When did we criminalize pregnancy?' 'How long has ultra-right religion been the leukemia of Democracy?' And, 'How come this guy writes women characters so well?'

 

South By Southwest already gave a couple awards to the film and the "Breakout Performance" nod to the involuntarily talented Rachel Harris, who has somehow managed to bury Ed Helms' "Bitch girlfriend" from HANGOVER to pull a purist kind of non-sarcastic emotional aria out of herself as NATURAL SELECTION's Linda. 

 

Clearly LAFF has picked a winner here.

 

With Rachel Harris in her first topper as the extremist Christian housewife, Matt O'Leary is a pitch-perfect counterpoint as her "step-son;" Jon Gries is spot-on as a conflicted Christian hen-pecked husband, and John Diehl anchors the cast as both he-man and mountain.

 

You must see this movie because the dialogue will begin in your head reflecting off the shy pieces of Americana depicted so masterfully by Robbie Pickering. And if all goes well, big distribution will begin in the Fall for this really important "little" film.

 

Stay Tuned for Composers & Screenwriters Panel Highlights from LAFF 2011.

 

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About Quendrith Johnson

Johnson Quendrith

LA Correspondent for filmfestivals.com


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