21 March, 2012

Macon: "That's What She Said" (***)

Marcia DeBonis, Anne Heche and Alia Shawkat star in "That's What She Said"

Carrie Preston has become somewhat of an icon in Macon. The hometown girl worked hard to break into Hollywood, going from bit parts to scene-stealing roles in films like "Duplicity," "My Best Friends Wedding" and "That Evening Sun." Now, as evidenced by her work on "True Blood" and "The Good Wife," Preston is a widely sought-after actress. A triple threat, she also wears the hats of director and producer.

"That's What She Said" marks Preston's second directorial feature and third time producing. The film premiered at Sundance and was showcased as the closing night film at the Macon Film Festival less than a month later. Following the film, Preston was gracious enough to do a Q&A via Skype with the Macon audience, mostly talking about her experience making "That's What She Said." While the film failed to impress me, I did find some things to appreciate. At the top of the good column is Preston's promising future as a director.

Featuring only women in primary roles, "That's What She Said" lives up to both its title and the seemingly rare designation of a true 'female buddy film.' The movie moves like a stage play, which makes sense considering it was adapted from one. Working with a very low budget, Preston was able to make the most of her settings. Longer scenes means fewer scenes, which translates into fewer locations. While this adds a realistic feel to the film (after all, aren't there some days where you pay more than one extended visit to the coffee shop?), the problem lies within the character development.

Screenwriter Kellie Overbey managed to forge some special relationships between the players, but fails to make any of them likable in the least. Bebe is too pitiful, Dee Dee is too crabby and Clementine is too doleful. While the actresses give it their all, there just isn't enough shading in the characters and none of them are equipped with any charm. While I hate to make the obvious comparison, this is the very thing that "Bridesmaids" got exactly right.

The raunchy and gross-out humor is pretty extreme, but the film mostly just suffers from a lack of charisma. Preston did the best she could and I think she will continue to be successful as a filmmaker.

While this review is rather late for the Macon Film Festival, "That's What She Said" is also part of the narrative competition at this year's Atlanta Film Festival. See it for yourself Friday, March 30th.

3 out of 5 stars.

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