Still, Wayland sees a kindred spirit in Dolores, perhaps even salvation. He moves in with her and the kids. From that moment on, Sabrina Doyle poignantly traces the couple’s trials and tribulations. Highlights include the plight of Dolores’ non-binary child; a deeply affecting “gift card” birthday party; Wayland visiting his mother’s grave, who last saw him in handcuffs; Dolores having had enough with her job; and Wayland having had enough of his miserable wages. The bold, breathless emotional escalation of the last 20 minutes brings to mind The Florida Project‘s heart-shredding resolution, and for a good reason, as the film’s producing team worked on Sean Baker’s superior but similar film, which also dealt with folks desperately trying to break through the social boundaries enforced upon them.
Once Lorelei hits its stride, it becomes an acute study of what it’s like to miss a significant chunk of your coming-of-age, that fraction between being a kid and becoming an adult. It’s about regret and allowing yourself to start over. It’s about how ambitions dissipate and how they can be reignited. “It wasn’t supposed to get like this,” Dolores laments about their dreams. “They should’ve been your kids,” she later accuses Wayland of her own sexual promiscuity. “We should’ve made them together.” This what if? hangs heavily over the entire narrative.
“Pablo Schreiber…is a revelation…”
Pablo Schreiber, known primarily for playing the imbecilic guard George “Pornstache” Mendez in Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black, is a revelation here, all subdued mannerisms and repressed emotion. This is the kind of introverted, career-changing performance that made Mark Ruffalo a star in Kenneth Lonergan’s You Can Count on Me. In a way, Wayland’s character reminded me of Robert De Niro’s Louis from Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, but with a gentler, deconstructed soul and dialed back on the mannerisms, of course. Jena Malone is fantastic, but when is she not? Her soulful eyes effortlessly penetrate through celluloid. Both Schreiber and Malone are executive producers on this film, and their passion is palpable.
Sure, Sabrina Doyle doesn’t quite have the assurance of Baker, Lonergan, or Tarantino yet. But give her some time. As it stands, Lorelei is perfectly imperfect. It demonstrates a filmmaker willing to go for broke, examine the dark recesses of our minds that others are too timid to touch. We all strive for greatness, trying to make the best of our lives before they run out. Watching Doyle’s characters struggle will surely strike a resonant note.
Lorelei screened at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival.