2016, R, 83 min. Directed by Trey Edward Shults. Starring Krisha Fairchild, Alex Dobrenko, Chris Doubek, Bill Wise, Robyn Fairchild, Olivia Grace Applegate, Trey Edward Shults.
REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., March 25, 2016
Let's consider the black sheep. I've always had a soft spot for them in popular culture, mostly because I have counted myself among their ranks, even though I've had other relations that have filled that role more aggressively in my family tree. Perhaps I'm just attracted to outsiders, the ones who brazenly tell it like it is; the messy, gorgeous people of this world who rail against seemingly perfect families "trapped in something practical." Trey Edward Shults' Krisha falls neatly into this subgenre of outcasts returning home for a reckoning, and the results are a delicious powder keg, should you go for that type of thing (and in this case, you should). Krisha won both the Grand Jury and Audience Awards at SXSW 2015, as well as the Film Independent Spirits’ John Cassavetes Award.
Krisha (Krisha Fairchild) returns estranged, to a Thanksgiving dinner: aunt to some, sister to others, mother to one. (Shults casts many of his actual family members in film roles.) She enters the bustling household of her sister that’s full of wandering nieces and nephews, bedrooms packed with overflowing suitcases, dresses hanging willy-nilly, endless sports on TV, and impromptu feats of arm wrestling. Popping pills and eventually hitting the sauce, Krisha spars and feints with the family, and Shults smartly refrains from dramatic set-pieces (à la Rachel Getting Married) opting for a fly-on-the-wall approach that pays off wonderfully. The one deviation, a crackerjack montage involving a Nina Simone song and a dropped turkey, is a hint of Shults' potential as a director.
But make no mistake, this movie is all about Krisha. As played by Shults' aunt, Krisha Fairchild, she commands attention in every goddamned frame. Helped along by Alex Dobrenko (always charming) and Bill Wise (ever trying to steal the show; but that has long been his m.o.), Shults has packed his film with an array of extremely satisfying uncomfortable situations. The camera often strays into a "look ma, no hands!" virtuosity, and the drama is overwrought to be sure, but there is no denying the cumulative effect of the film. Krisha is an exceptionally well done slow burn that ushers a striking new talent onto the film scene. Let's hope that Shults retains that black-sheep sensibility for his future projects.
For our interview with Trey Edward Shults, see "All in the Family," March 25.