Thursday, June 10, 2021

'Holler' about this poor Ohio community and embrace its lead performance

Barden sternly carries Ohio homegirl Riegel's "Holler."
Last September, during the 45th annual (and first ever virtual) Toronto International Film Festival, a small indie named "Holler" snuck up on many of us. 

In fact, though not an official festival entry, the movie from first-time feature director and writer Nicole Riegel was exhibited in a special section, "TIFF Industry Selects," which allowed potential buyers and distributors to take a look.

After months of open negotiations, the generally intuitive team at IFC Films stepped up to the plate with the right deal in February and, finally, the dramatic story of a smart if struggling young woman from Jackson, Ohio, hits theater screens everywhere Friday, as well as On Demand.

Not surprisingly, Riegel herself grew up in Jackson, a very small town in Athens County, and actually shot her film there in the midst of its gritty, blue-collar look, high unemployment, and minimal educational opportunities, especially for young women. Riegel's noteworthy grasp of her subject matter shows repeatedly in a story she has called "semi-autobiographical," at least when it comes to the emotional and practical challenges of living in the margins.

Her survive-at-all-costs mentality keeps Riegel's lead player Ruth also trying to find her own unique talents. And, as brilliantly captured by British actress Jessica Barden, the clever and loyal teen even might have to agree to some shady work to help herself get out of town.

Finding out if she actually succeeds certainly and quickly becomes well worth the 90-minute watch, particularly with Barden getting plenty of support from the likes of Pamela Adlon, as her incarcerated mother, Gus Halper (the protective brother), and Becky Ann Baker (the wise and supportive friend). 

"Holler" opens Friday in a handful of Ohio theaters, including the northeast area's Cedar Lee (Cleveland Heights), Chagrin Cinemas, Cinemark Valley View and The Nightlight (Akron).

Rated "R" by MPAA; language and sexual references; 1:31: $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

Other films hitting theaters -- and apparently stingy about offering advance press screenings -- include the much-delayed "Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway" and "In the Heights" (also on HBO Max). Meanwhile, the streaming-only "Infinite" is available on Paramount+. If and when we catch up with any of them, you can find our ratings at left and on Rotten Tomatoes.

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