Navigating the entertainment industry in Los Angeles is fraught with pitfalls and disappointments. This is before one accidentally takes a serious dose of LSD prior to a potentially career-saving audition. Herein lies the dilemma at the center of writer/director Jefferey Scott Lando’s vibrant indie Lissa’s Trip, as a former child star embarks on a trip (in more ways than one) to rescue her career. It’s a tonally and aesthetically varied experience that, for all of its flaws, manages to stick in one’s craw for longer than anticipated.
Lissa (Sofia Vassilieva) is desperately seeking to rekindle her career since her popular role “Bird Girl” has concluded. She gets a notification from her agent, as well as her domineering mother (Camille Carida), that a brilliant opportunity is right around the corner. In reality, it’s just a continuation of her previous role, but this time she would play “Hawk Gal.” But there are no bad roles for actors without a job, and Lissa is ready to take Tinseltown by storm again.
Ah, but there’s a catch! Something is wrong with the sweetener Lissa puts in her hot tea. It’s tasteless and definitely not sweetening anything. This is because the liquid in the bottle labeled “Sweet” is actually LSD. And Lissa drinks a lot of it before her friend, Alex (Alexandra Vino), breaks the news to her. But a true thespian should be unwilling to let a strong dose of a hallucinogen get in the way. Lissa then continues on her quest to nail the audition.
“…the liquid in the bottle labeled ‘Sweet’ is actually LSD. And Lissa drinks a lot of it…”
The use of LSD has been depicted in cinema to varying degrees of success since the 1960s. The attempts to recreate its effects on-screen are usually clumsy, though a certain film from Terry Gilliam is the notable exception. How does a medium formulated upon careful composition of images and sound reproduce the experience of a substance that serves to dismantle these compositions? I’m not sure anyone knows, but at least Lissa’s Trip is easy on the eyes. The novelty wears thin after a little while, but we never stop rooting for Lissa. Though Lando takes the opportunity to imbue the movie with a plethora of colorful imagery and flocks of animated birds that talk.
Vassilieva is great — easily the best part of the drama — and we’re invested in her journey because of her impressive performance. But just like LSD is wont to do to those attempting to concentrate, we, the audience, are too distracted by the chaos on screen. More focus on her plight without the overwhelming visuals would have been a boon. And as far as the acid goes, it’s funnier seeing how other people react to those on acid than actually attempting to put us in the shoes of someone under the influence.
There’s no denying that Lissa’s Trip certainly looks cool. It also serves as an effective reminder that modern digital filmmaking has democratized the introduction of impressive visual effects to low-budget features. Indie filmmakers today are making movies that hold up quite nicely against the work coming from larger productions. It’s important not to forget that just because you can feature a talking cartoon bird in a live-action motion picture doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
"…Vassilieva is great..."