Robin Weigert is an actress of intriguing, indistinct beauty. She could be
your teacher, your mother, your librarian or your sister-in-law. It likely
makes her the best fit for “Concussion,” an intriguing, vaguely European indie
drama. Her Abby is a wife and a mother, as well as an
upstanding member of a suburban community. All these things are believable.
Somehow, as a prostitute, smiling wanly as she caresses and cuddles her
clients, she makes that much more sense. Anyone who saw Weigert steal
absolutely every scene as the wily Calamity Jane in HBO’s flawless “Deadwood”
understands this dichotomy well: there are few things sexier than wearing
At the start of director Stacie Passon’s film, that face is bloodied, the
result of a mundane accident roughhousing with her children. It’s diagnosed as
a concussion, one that subtly changes what has become a ho-hum existence.
There’s a routine she shares with her wife, one that relies on comfortable
dinners, picking the kids up from school, and shared time with bullshitting
neighbors. While there’s little dialogue in the film to show this, Weigert’s
growing awareness is like a sixth sense suddenly forming. The injury has caused
her world to expand. And that involves increased carnal desires.
Her first impulse lands a female prostitute in her bed. Not fully
understanding the marketplace, her first is a shady off-brand lesbian she meets
in a dimly-lit apartment. Squirrely and aggressive, she offers her drugs to
Abby, before mounting her inexperienced john and having her way. The second one
is decidedly more upscale, a slinky med school student, and the two of them
have instant chemistry. Sharing a mutual orgasm, she suggests Abby explore her
sensual side for a living, and Weigert’s face lights up like it’s the best
compliment she’s received in ages. Judging by her passion-less rapport with her
wife, and the passive-aggressive judgment of the local harridans who work out
at the gym with her, it probably is.
Not only is there a market for the services of a mature, fortysomething
woman with a quiet (and secretly newfound) confidence, but business is booming.
Her clients are a dubious subset of New Yorkers, most of whom are very
attractive, photogenic women, all of them white. One virginal plus-sized
client, a college student, feels real and awkward, though it seems somewhat implausible
that a student would continuously be able to afford Abby’s $800-a-session going
rate. Equally unbelievable is when Abby learns that her employer is actually a
pint-sized female law student, a flighty pipsqueak completely oblivious to the
level of legal and physical risk of her profession.
Passon leans on montages and explicit bedroom scenes to illustrate Abby’s
transformation, but they fail to communicate as much as Weigert’s expressions.
As yet under-exploited by filmmakers, Weigert’s full range of emotion is quite
staggering: she can be funny, maternal, and flirty all at once, and in a film
that relies on her so greatly, she is endlessly watchable. You could write a
sonnet about her physicality when she meets each of her johns, sizing them up, circling
them, running a hand across their under-explored bodies. This is a frequently
titillating film, and Weigert can’t help but add dimensions to that onscreen
intimacy and vivid exploration of intimacy, not just seduction but also the
shared sensuality of a post-coital chat.
Passon’s film nevertheless can’t resist the allure of some low-hanging
fruit. The gossip-mongers who make up the local mommy brigade (including Janel
Maloney of “The West Wing”) start to bore the newly awakened Abby, though their
inane chatter suggests that Abby should have always been too smart for their
one-dimensional complaints. And Abby’s backgrounded struggles with her wife
(Julie Fain Lawrence) feel ported over from a generic film about a heterosexual
couple. Abby’s later flirtation with a curious heterosexual housewife (Maggie
Siff) proves to be a conventional third act distraction meant to give closure
to an open-ended notion, that sex-work is ultimately no way to make a living.
It’s a weirdly judgmental end to something that Weigert’s performance
contradicts. It’s difficult to present characters with conflicting desires when
an actress of her caliber is so clearly conveying that, yes, you can have it