“Why do people keep asking me that?” Cora (Megan Stalter) asks someplace across the fifth time in Cora Bora that somebody angrily calls for to know what’s fallacious along with her. Her reply, when she might be bothered to provide one, is that nothing is. But it’s been clear from the opening moments of Cora Bora that that’s very removed from the case.
Her fledgling music profession appears to be going nowhere, regardless of the sweaty dedication with which she lugs her damaged guitar case from one dismally under-attended Los Angeles membership to a different. Her love life is not any extra promising: Her open long-distance relationship with Justine (Jojo T. Gibbs) is rising solely extra distant, and the hookups she has on the facet are extra cringey than satisfying. When she begins to suspect Justine’s fallen in love with another person, she impulsively buys a aircraft ticket again to Portland, the place she unleashes nonetheless extra mess.
The Bottom Line
Stalter delivers in a heat, if barely flimsy, indie.
Venue: SXSW Film Festival (Narrative Spotlight)
Cast: Megan Stalter, Jojo T. Gibbs, Manny Jacinto, Ayden Mayeri
Director: Hannah Pearl Utt
Screenwriter: Rhianon Jones
1 hour 32 minutes
That Cora Bora takes all of this in and embraces her anyway, discovering each humor and pathos in her millennial malaise, is essential to its attraction. But if the movie’s power lies in its affection for its title heroine, its biggest flaw is a comparative lack of consideration towards the characters surrounding her — yielding a movie that, for all its likable beats, feels flimsier than it ought to.
By far one of the best motive to look at Cora Bora for Stalter, who in her first characteristic lead efficiency makes a convincing case for a lot of extra. The actress is maybe greatest identified for her flip in Hacks as Kayla, whose utter incompetence is outmatched solely by her nearly pathological self-confidence. Cora shares with Kayla a elementary incapacity to be anybody however herself, in addition to a common air of chaos. But Cora Bora additionally affords Stalter the chance to develop her vary, drawing out new notes of disappointment or uncertainty in Cora’s comedic bluster. In moments the film asks her to dig deep, she breaks Cora open with such uncooked, ragged sincerity that it’s exhausting to look away.
Stalter additionally seems to have a reasonably, if unpolished, singing voice. Cora’s songs (penned by Miya Folick, whose personal music soundtracks a lot of the movie, together with screenwriter Rhianon Jones) are pulled from her personal life, and their lyrics are hilarious of their jadedness. “Dreams are stupid and so are you for believing in them,” goes one. “Why try and be a better person when dating apps exist,” goes one other. When a stranger (Margaret Cho) describes one — which begins with the road “Love is a joke and it’ll break your heart” — as a love track, Cora rejects the label with a flatness that hints at a deeper damage.
Throughout, director Hannah Pearl Utt (Before You Know It) captures each Los Angeles and Portland with a sun-kissed glow that appears to envelop Cora in heat at the same time as she careens from one minor catastrophe to a different. And there are many them: the one-night-stand with a flat-earther (Thomas Mann) nonetheless hung up on his ex, the screaming match with a former pal (Heather Morris) over a previous romantic betrayal, the argument with a flight attendant (Caitlin Reilly) after she tries to assert a first-class seat she hasn’t paid for. At least the latter supplies Cora with an alluring romantic chance within the type of Tom (Manny Jacinto), the good-looking man whose seat she’d been making an attempt to steal.
But Tom, like so most of the non-Cora characters in Cora Bora, will get little of the depth that Cora does. We’re informed by considered one of Tom’s associates that he’s “drawn to broken people,” which explains why he appears so charmed by a lady who’s met his kindness with brusqueness at each flip. We get little sense, nonetheless, of why he got here to be that approach, or what it’s meant for his previous relationships, a lot much less any concept how that may bode for any future relationship with Cora. The relationships between Cora, Justine and Justine’s new “friend” Riley (Ayden Mayeri) are equally defined greater than felt within the dialogue, with a couple of scene of Cora unintentionally eavesdropping on their conversations about her — although by the top of the 92-minute characteristic they’ve constructed sufficient historical past collectively for a intelligent and genuinely touching twist on the rom-com trope of a grand romantic gesture.
As for Cora herself, Cora Bora finally will get round to revealing the devastating occasion that compelled her to maneuver from Portland to Los Angeles. But it resists the temptation to attract too tidy a line between her previous ache and her present aimlessness. “All those who wander are totally fucking lost,” Cora sings within the first act, and within the second it feels like an expression of anger and despair. The remainder of her film, although, makes the case that it’s okay to be misplaced — that Cora’s journey now, messy or unsure although it could be, is value embracing no matter the place she’s been earlier than, or the place she’s headed subsequent.