Officially the most refreshing breath of air at this year’s TIFF, Nick Cassavetes’ new feature ‘Yellow’, is a step into crazy terrritory, far from his recent romantic comedy fare and “Alpha Dog.” It’s Cassavetes moving away from traditional ways of telling stories, and towards a different type of perspective and very different type of view, as he admitted during the Q&A. You can’t but feel almost like a child trying to talk or review this movie because of how infectiously zany it is; think “Young Adult” on Vicodin and acid. Leading lady Heather Wahiquist puts her all into a truly memorable leading performance, and no wonder; she co-wrote the screenplay with Cassavetes. But the winner has to be the imagination behind the trippiness.
Though you’ll be hard pressed to find a rock solid plot in this one, it does clearly deal with Mary Holmes (Wahlquist), an elementary teacher who loses her job after being caught having sex with one of the parents on Parent Teacher Day. Not to mention that her first line of dialogue is to say that she doesn’t feel anything, confessing it to her therapist (David Morse, always nice to see him back) and carrying around a purse that seemingly only has yellow painkillers and mini bottles of alcohol in it. If all of that doesn’t sound like enough, how about a random burst into an operatic number? And that’s opera with a fuck-you attitude, daring and resilient and fully aware that it’s taking a plunge into a film that could be a Michel Gondry dream.
Mary tries to get help after she loses her job — she can’t support her 4 boys on her own with none of their fathers in the picture — and she seeks help from her sister Xanne (Sienna Miller) who pushes her away. Oft-underrated as an actress, Miller needs some online ink spilled about her here. She brings her natural beauty to an ugly and hilarious character, and hits a home run. Watching her scream out profanities while doing her Tourette’s twitches is a positive comic delight.
After Mary has a small and visually arresting accident, she has a flashback into a childhood moment that prompts her to go back and see her family. And there you have it as far as plot’s concerned; ‘Yellow’ is a film you want to see with as little information as possible. Though not without its imperfections — at times the rails come off the narrative in a big way — the film does a great job of embracing those imperfections, and making it an experience fueled by feelings, and not so much anything close to rational thought. With a top notch cast, and a ride that will make you doubt your own feelings towards characters minutes after you’ve settled on liking them, ‘Yellow’ works because it says a lot and remains entertaining through out.
Refreshing apart from the performances, effects and attitude, is that it’s women running the show, ‘rock stars’ as Cassavetes likes to call them. The film follows suit in the same vein of recent films concentrating on 30-something good-looking women with unbalanced lives (“Young Adult,” “Bridesmaids,” et al), ‘Yellow’ manages to remain unique in its approach, helped by a soundtrack that’s destined for many playlists and made in a spirit that’s unshackled to any conventions. It is Nick Cassavetes’ most adventurous and fun-loving film, in its own sense of freedom reminiscent of his father, the late great John Cassavetes. So far there is no news on distribution or when this thing is coming out, but as soon as it does, go out, don’t take it too seriously and have a little fun with it. [B+]