SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! I believe the gap between the quality of big Hollywood and independent filmmaking is closing rapidly. However, this gap is wider with some genres over others. The indie thriller is one of them, and it now more than ever needs our support as not everyone can raise an additional hundred grand to shore up any weaknesses. One such film deserving our love is Erin Vassilopoulos and Alessandra Mesa’s Superior.
Marian (Alessandra Mesa) and Vivian (Anamari Mesa) are estranged twin sisters. The film opens with rock musician Marian running from her ex-boyfriend, Robert (Pico Alexander), who is chasing her down with a car. Marian is able to escape from his clutches, running him over with the car in the process.
Then there’s Vivian, who lives a pretty typical (and boring) life as a housewife doing her everyday chores. Marian arrives at her sister’s doorstep with nowhere to go, looking for a place to stay, and says she’s there to “work on her music.” Vivian’s husband, Michael (Jake Hoffman), is annoyed and insists that Marian find a job to help cover her stay. Marian finds work at a Dairy Queen-type establishment. The question about her dead boyfriend’s status lingers in Marian’s mind, so much so that she starts to hallucinate Robert, who may or may not have made an appearance at the store.
“…she looks precisely like Vivian and encourages her to show up at work in her place.”
Marian now schemes to cut her hair so she looks precisely like Vivian and encourages her to show up at work in her place. Now Marian is at home freaking out over visions of Robert, and Vivian finds new life pretending to be her edgy, rock star sister selling ice cream cones to the locals. I don’t need to tell you where the story is heading. However, the scenes serving soft serve are super. No, really, they are the highlight of the film.
Though Superior operates at a slow pace, it’s exciting nonetheless. First, it was bothering me so much that I had to check if one or two actresses played Marian and Vivian… it’s the Mesa Sisters. I was going to complement the use of split screens, but it won’t happen here. I also mentioned the disadvantage indie thrillers have over the big studio productions. Without money, the scale is much smaller. There are few locations available to tell a big story, and the action and violence are less graphic when you can’t afford stunt coordinators. Even with all the violence in the film, it seemed no one was in any real danger at all.
Director Vassilopoulos did an amazing job presenting a good thriller with the resources available to her. It helps that the story is strong, with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing, even though you sort of know where it is headed. I thought the contrast between the two sisters worked, and I liked the film’s methodical tone that never felt slow. Just an aside, my teen daughter wanted to watch it (she hates anything that’s not anime or Marvel) and was fully engaged to the end.
Good storytelling and fantastic acting by Alessandra and Anamari Mesa make up for any limitations of not having a million-dollar budget. Superior is worthy of your support.
Superior screened at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.
"…the story is strong, with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing..."