‘The Love Witch’ Casts a Colorful Spell (Review)
Written by: Dale Raulerson
Directed by: Anna Biller
Cast: Samantha Robinson, Laura Waddell, Gian Keys
While numerous directors are putting the 70’s and 80’s on a pedestal lately, Anna Biller comes to the table with a meticulously crafted homage to 60’s pulp and technicolor. More impressive than the luscious color and elaborate detail though are the efforts of Biller, who not only wrote, directed and edited, but hand crafted the majority of the costumes and set decorations herself. Her vision, talent and dedication are admirable and subject matter aside, make this a film very well worth watching and appreciating for its ability to bring a world and a concept to life. This is perhaps one of the most perfect examples I’ve seen of the realization of a concept visually; where every aspect feels completely natural, yet is obviously plotted down to the most miniscule element.
The heavy contrast and explosive color make The Love Witch a feast for the eyes, with every article of clothing, piece of jewelry, and knickknack being thoroughly designed and coordinated. Each set is packed with detail and every change of setting equates to a change of wardrobe, with no article of clothing less lush or vibrant than the last. Biller’s design harnesses a perfect vision of 60’s nostalgia, while still weaving in the crispness of modern film making. The soundtrack is also perfectly matched to the visuals, rarely too prominent but nostalgically familiar in its sultry tones and retro mannerisms. The acting and dialogue are similarly retro; often cheesy and stilted, but playfully and purposefully so. Bearing that in mind, it is perfectly enjoyable and suited to the film’s style. I’m no connoisseur of 60’s pulp, but this film was able to transport me to the time and mindset seamlessly and I’d have to imagine bigger fans of the era will take great pleasure in what it has to offer.
So after spilling my guts about how fantastically designed this movie is, you might be asking what the problem is? The plot has drawn some substantial controversy for its feminist elements and projections, but I have to say it wasn’t really what I expected for all the fuss. Samantha Robinson plays the titular Love Witch, who has moved to a new “apartment” (and what an apartment) after the death of her husband, whom she very clearly poisoned. Obsessed with finding real love and her Prince Charming, she dates various men (who keep turning up dead) and occasionally has tea with her new friend Trish (Waddell). The two have differing concepts of feminism and what it takes to earn the love of a man, the concept of which basically underscores the whole plot. While some of the suggestions, namely from Elaine, are rather unhealthy, it’s important to bear in mind the affects of society on these characters, as well as their personal damages. To take any individual message or mantra too close to heart does no good; after all, we do bear witness to the steady dismantling of all the character’s lives thanks to their lust and inability to relate to other views.
My own issues with the plot don’t stem from the feminist element of this movie, which proves to have value to the characters, but simply in the drawn out tale and the very obvious and lackluster conclusion. Though the fallout occurs with enough explosiveness, the final outcome drifts around without repercussions for too long before delivering a heavily telegraphed finale that leaves Elaine almost exactly where she begin, if only with a higher body count. While The Love Witch might provide a character examination of the dangers of certain obsessions and thoughts, it doesn’t feel enriching and the plot as a whole doesn’t really benefit from the inner revelations. Instead, the final package feels more episodic in nature, as though we’ve simply watched a few of Elaine’s exploits, versus the resolution of a larger story. It’s a lovely and entertaining product, but much less compelling and insightful than it could have been. Still, I’m plenty interested in seeing what other kaleidoscopic features Anna Biller will produce in the future.
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