Sunday, December 19, 2021

'The Novice' displays what hard work really is during Movie Christmas 2021

Visit here for each of the next seven afternoons -- Dec. 19-25 -- and (hopefully) find a little something about a film currently playing in or close to surfacing at a theater (or streaming service) near you for the holidays. We're calling it our "12 Days of Movie Christmas," and it continues here today right now. 

"Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream."

Uh, not really so much in "The Novice," a fiercely intense study of one girl's obsession with competition and, most notably, winning anything she attempts. That not only means her grades and making the varsity rowing team as a freshman with no previous experience, but dominating the sport as well.

After checking and rechecking a test she's the last to complete, Alex Dall (the scary Isabelle Fuhrman) literally sprints across campus and into a cold, dark basement, where the first meeting of the Ravens rowers is being held. Everything about this impressive feature debut from director/writer Lauren Hadaway acutely heats up from there, and there's nothing humorous about any of it -- on the water, in the classroom or, most significantly, with Dall's team and personal relationships.

Of course, the smart Hadaway steers it that way. Even when a coach talks about how comical some rowing terms might sound, the director closes in on Dall's ever-solemn face. By the way, the movie ends with the ironic "Funny," a love song from Sammy Taylor, in a soundtrack of welcome oldie ballads from the likes of Connie Francis ("Al Di la") and Brenda Lee ("I'm Sorry").

The rest of the nicely compatible score (by Alex Weston) and some gorgeous cinematography (from Todd Martin) help fill in the blanks among the sights, sounds and horrors shown through a success-driven mind. Enter at your own risk and know that, just last week, Hadaway's film was nominated for five Independent Spirit Awards.

("The Novice" is streaming on just about any VOD outlet near you or your TV, but only in a few, very select theaters.)

Rated "R" by MPAA: language, some sexuality and brief disturbing material; 1:37; $ $ $ $ out of $5 

Coming tomorrow (Day 7 of Movie Christmas 2021): "Sing 2"

And, if you missed Days 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5: "Nightmare Alley," "Spider-Man: No Way Home, "Swan Song," "The Lost Daughter," "Mother/Android"

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