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Helena Howard plays the protagonist in Madeline's Madeline.

Parris Pictures

  • Madeline’s Madeline
  • Directed by: Josephine Decker
  • Written by: Josephine Decker and Donna di Novelli
  • Starring: Helena Howard and Molly Parker
  • Classification: N/A; 93 minutes

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Madeline’s Madeline begins in an incoherent arty whir, and ends in a slightly more coherent arty whir, and if that’s enough of an arc for you, then you will find interesting things here. Especially interesting is the actress playing the title character, Helena Howard, now 21, who wowed the film’s writer-director, Josephine Decker, at a high-school arts festival.

Miranda July plays Madeline’s neurotic mother, Regina. Is she nervous because Madeline just got out of rehab (there are references to anorexia and cutting), or did Regina’s neuroses drive Madeline there? Molly Parker plays Evangeline, the head of an experimental theatre troupe where Madeline finds refuge – until Evangeline decides to turn Madeline’s life into her next project.

Decker evolved her project with her actors over five months, and it’s both pro and con that, boy howdy, it sure feels improvised. Note to filmmakers everywhere: If you want to depict emotional dissonance through relentlessly swirly cinematography, do it sparingly. If you do it for 90 minutes, as Decker does, the audience isn’t stirred. It’s queasy.

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