Indies in the Park
Cinema East's feature on Sunday was Allison Bagnall's The Dish and the Spoon, which premiered at the South By Southwest Film Festival earlier this year, featuring rising star Greta Gerwig and British actor Olly Alexander.
The story follows Rose (Gerwig) as she alternates between despondence and rage after discovering her husband has had an affair. Still in her decidedly unsexy pajamas, she drives to the beach town where the other woman resides, looking for a confrontation. Not finding the mistress, Rose quickly meets a young drifter (Alexander), who is alone on the beach having coming to the U.S. for a romance and been immediately deserted by his love. Together, the two take refuge from their broken hearts, playing house in an empty beach cottage while Rose processes her life and plots her revenge.
Shot on the Delaware shore in winter, The Dish and the Spoon exposes the melancholy behind off-season seaside resorts, showing the boredom and lack of activities for a heartbroken woman in need of a distraction. Rose and the boy (he's never named, not even in the credits) entertain themselves with the random assortment available--brewery tours, old fashioned photo attractions, going out in drag, and finally, colonial dancing. The dialogue has a quiet humor, until the moments where Rose collect calls her husband from any available pay phone to scream angry, hurt obscenities. It's those scenes that ring with a ridiculous hilarity in the raw emotion that's oddly relatable (and simulataneously embarrassing) for anyone that's ever suffered a broken heart.
Bagnall wrote the script for Gerwig and Alexander, allowing their characters to change during shooting, as she listened to input from her two leads. Gerwig and Alexander make a charming odd couple, even as they ruminate on the less-than-stellar origins of Thanksgiving. ("I don't understand Thanksgiving. I thought you annihilated the Indians, not sat down and had dinner with them." "No, we did. Both.")
The set up of The Dish and the Spoon may sound insufferably twee (seriously, colonial dancing?), but rest assured, it's not remotely so. When I saw the film at SXSW, I found Gerwig's threatening, unhinged Rose a delight and a welcome change from her usual vulnerable manic pixies. Rose's pained state is the dominant element of the film more so than the plot, and the movie glows with both the urgency felt in raw emotion and the stillness of knowing your life has just irrevocably changed.