Movie Review ~ The Dive


The Facts:

Synopsis: A deep-sea dive at one of the world’s most remote spots becomes a fight for survival for sisters Drew and May when a landslide sends rocks tumbling into the sea, trapping May in the depths. As their oxygen runs low, Drew must make life-and-death decisions with no outside help in sight…
Stars: Louisa Krause, Sophie Lowe
Director: Maximilian Erlenwein
Rated: NR
Running Length: 91 minutes
TMMM Score: (5.5/10)
Review: A year ago, Lionsgate scored a low-boil hit with Fall, which found two unlucky female friends with a love of heights stranded on top of an abandoned radio tower. Battling brutal weather conditions and other frightening natural elements, not to mention the rusty dilapidated structure breaking apart beneath them, it was a high-wire thriller that played well with convention and sold a few tickets in its limited theatrical release.

Now we have Lionsgate taking The Dive, a remake of the 2020 Swedish thriller Breaking Surface, and you can see how the studio is trying to find similar success with a set formula, but this time with less buoyant results. While Fall found believable ways to stretch out its conceit, The Dive strains to get there. It rarely descended far enough with simple tension to eventually graduate into complete, breathless suspense. What begins as an exciting premise for survival quickly runs out of air long before our lead characters search for their source of oxygen.

It’s a tradition for sisters Drew (Sophie Low, Above Suspicion) and May (Louisa Krause, Young Adult) to take a yearly deep-sea dive together in an exotic locale. Though they may live in separate parts of the world and lead different lives, it’s an unspoken agreement that this is an event neither will miss. Though clearly harboring issues from growing up with a father tough on them both, the sister’s bond is evident, with May emerging early as the more dominant of the two. Of course, this means that when a rockslide interrupts their voyage underwater and traps one of the sisters, guess which one has to step, er, swim up to the plate, and take charge?

Had The Dive been filmed as a tight, taut, 45-minute race to the finish push to save May, it could have been a corker of a nail-biter. Instead, it’s 90 minutes long and reaches the first of its many climaxes around the fifty-minute mark, with director Maximilian Erlenwein’s adaptation of the original script forcing Drew out of the water numerous times. This could have been a cost-saving measure to avoid filming underwater, but it robs the movie of sustained pressure, and we leave poor May stranded on the ocean floor too often.

Eventually, the action picks up for a finale that fails to muster many surprises…at least not the same level of unconventional diversions that helped Fall set itself apart from other drama in real-life survival tales. Had The Dive stayed in the water longer and worried less about being on dry land, Lionsgate could have proven they had an intriguing genre to exploit.

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Movie Review ~ Port Authority


The Facts:

Synopsis: Paul’s momentary encounter with Wye, a trans woman of color, leaves the 20-year-old Midwesterner transfixed by her beauty and confidence. But as the two learn more about each other, Paul’s false narratives begin to surface and the double life he lives must be reconciled.

Stars: Fionn Whitehead, Leyna Bloom, McCaul Lombardi, Jari Jones, Devon Carpenter, Eddie Plaza, Louisa Krause, Christopher Quarles, Taliek Jeqon

Director: Danielle Lessovitz

Rated: R

Running Length: 101 minutes

TMMM Score: (5/10)

Review:  So much for that whole “wokeness” thing, I guess.  Maybe that’s being a tad harsh toward the filmmakers of Port Authority but there’s something more than a little off-putting about watching a movie released in 2021 that features a vibrant LGBTQ+ cast in supporting roles of a love story between a trans woman and a “straight” white male.  When the film is seemingly about this male’s journey of discovery it’s kind of, well, lame in this current climate because it feels as if that story, that angle, has been looked at and analyzed from every conceivable vantage point already in film, on stage, and recently on television in the never-quite-got-its-due series Pose.  Who needs to see this problematic arc of redemption via self-aware reflection play out yet again, albeit with some memorable performances that almost take your mind off the main sticking point?

With Martin Scorsese serving as executive producer, this NYC-set romantic drama seems to start off on the right foot as we meet up with Paul (Fionn Whitehead, Dunkirk), newly arrived from Pennsylvania at the titular transit station expecting to be picked up by his half-sister.  Scouring the location to see if she’s as lost as he feels, he steps outside for a smoke and sees a group of twenty-somethings that give off a different kind of energy he can’t quite put his finger on.  Amongst them is Wye (Leyna Bloom), and for the briefest of moments the two lock eyes and it’s obvious we’ve witnessed that rare spark of attraction…but it’s only for moment because Paul has to get find a way to his sister’s apartment and Wye’s group is off into the charged bustle of the evening crowds.

As Paul acclimates to the city, he finds a place to stay at a grungy hostel and manages to quickly find work from the first person that showed him kindness, a tatted homophobe named Lee (McCaul Lombardi).  Lee is in the business of intimidating low-income minority families that have landlords threating to evict them, forcing them either to pay their rent or sacrifice their possessions and soon Paul is participating in these illegal actions. Not so far away, Wye is a popular star in the ballroom scene and a member of the House of McQueen, performing in nightly contests that lift up queer society and with exquisite performances.  Delirious displays of fashion, runaway walks, dancing, and severe attitude, these ballroom scenes are exclusive and not a spectator sport.

By chance, one of the ballroom participants is staying at the same hostel as Paul and one night Paul follows them to an event where he again comes in contact with Wye.  This time, they don’t let opportunity pass them by and a flirtation turns into a full-blown romance after hanging out a few times.  Now, I don’t want to say Paul is slow on the uptake but after hanging out with Wye and her “brothers” at their “house” (apartment), he apparently gets the idea that the guys might be gay but has no clue that Wye is trans. Unfortunately, this isn’t the extent of Paul’s limited exposure to life outside of his own bubble, as we’ll witness over the next days where he systematically dismantles several relationships he has – work, love, family, and all because he can’t be honest, really honest, with any of them.  At least someone like Lee wears his misogyny and bigotry loud and proud and Wye keeps it real above all else.  Anytime Paul is faced with owning up to something or providing a false excuse he tends to always opt for the lie – and this is the character we’re supposed to root for?

Writer/director Danielle Lessovitz has one half of a good movie going on here and when Port Authority is in its better half, it has a liveliness that is attractive and intoxicating, much like NYC itself.  When it strays into the uglier parts of the action, it can feel like the end of a long day walking around the city in the heat…exhausting and chafing.  I just did not care what sort of issues Paul had to work through because it was becoming more obvious he was using some of his experiences with Wye and her family to help him through that.  Not finding much love or support in his own life, he acts as a sort of parasite until he takes too much, and people get hurt. 

The other side of the coin has Whitehead and Bloom turning in tender and often terrific performances amidst all the noise, creating genuine chemistry that goes a long way in selling what Lessovitz can’t quite convey in her screenplay.  After Voyagers, this is another performance from Whitehead where he’s emotionally broken and needs the attention of another to find his way back to being whole and Bloom is just the right actress to make that fix work.  I could have used a few mores scenes with the two of them together (or even of Bloom doing her own thing) but this is firmly Paul’s story and, like it or not, you’re stuck with him for the good scenes as well as the bad.

Every time we left Wye and her family to tag along with Paul and his gross friends, all I was thinking about was how much fun the others must have been having.  If only Lessovitz had opted to tell that story instead, jettisoning Paul’s acceptance of himself by seeing what he could become through Lee’s deplorable work in favor of a deeper dive into Wye’s ballroom scene.  That would have made Port Authority more of a destination worth looking forward to.