SLAMDANCE 2022 FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW! Adrian Murray’s Retrograde follows a young woman whose irritation over a perceived slight by a police officer at a traffic stop evolves into an overwhelming obsession that threatens to derail her life. Molly (Molly Reisman) is a bright, energetic person, driven to see her version of the world proved out. She’s helping her new roommate, Gabrielle (Sofia Banzhaf), move in when she is pulled over for cutting off a patrol car with an aggressive lane change.
The officer runs her through the standard Q&A, asking if she’s been drinking or indulging in drugs. Molly does herself no favors by grilling him about why he stopped her and insisting she’s done nothing wrong. He eventually tickets her for reckless driving. She’s absolutely sure the ticket will be thrown out once she tells her story in court. Unfortunately, she runs face-first into the arcane bureaucracy that is the municipal process. Molly learns a hard lesson about fighting City Hall that a person her age should already know. The first revelation being that you have to schedule an appointment to let City Hall know you’ll fight them, and the only time slot open is Wednesday during work hours.
“…tickets her for reckless driving.”
After a few rounds of complaining about the ticket, the court offers to reduce the fine to a manageable sum, but Molly insists she’s innocent and engages a lawyer, who tells her to pay the fine and go on with her life. The ticket becomes Molly’s windmill, her car is Rocinante, and she squares her tin helmet and points again and again into the wind to take on the immovable object. While this Quixotic endeavor plays out, she strains the tolerance of her employer by missing work for court dates. Molly’s also driving her roommates batsh*t about the whole affair, and they advise her to pay the fine and drop it. Gabrielle, who proves a charming roomie devoted to astrology, even offers to pay the fine so the madness will stop. Molly refuses to relent, even if it means losing her license and job. She has never learned to pick her battles.
The title, Retrograde, derives from the popular saying that a run of bad luck is caused by this or that planet being in retrograde. That is when a planet seems to be moving backwards in the sky from our perspective. Gabrielle has everyone under her spell as she does readings and breathlessly intones what the stars divine for them. Ironically, since this obsession upstages her own, Molly has no tolerance for it and bullies Gabrielle about it. Both of them lack perspective. They’d both be more socially adept if either would consider context and learn to read a room.
"…a planet going the wrong way."