New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media


This article is from our magazine. To view it in its original format, click here

REVIEW: "Unsane"

By Eric Hillis, TheMovieWaffler.com

originally published: 03/22/2018

REVIEW: "Unsane"

“Your phone is your worst enemy!” So advises a cameoing Matt Damon’s cop to Claire Foy’s stalking victim in Steven Soderbergh’s Unsane. The line plays like an in-joke on Soderbergh’s part, as the film itself was shot using iPhones, not for budgetary reasons, but because the director/cinematographer, who has experimented with developing technology throughout his career, shot his thriller in relative secrecy on a tight schedule, the ease of the device allowing him to quickly transition between camera set-ups and save hours of production downtime.

From a script by Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer, Unsane is headlined by rising star Foy as Sawyer Valentini, a young office worker whose cold exterior masks anxiety issues caused by a prolonged stalking incident in her past. Attending what she thinks is a simple therapy session, Sawyer finds herself involuntarily checked in to a psychiatric institution after signing some seemingly innocuous forms without reading the small print.

The ensuing drama sees Sawyer trapped in a bureaucratic Kafkaesque nightmare, her initial 24 hour confinement extended to seven days after she defends herself against a male inmate and punches a staff member. The middle class Sawyer is forced to interact with/take advantage of people she would likely normally cross the street to avoid, including a black man, Nate (Jay Pharoah), who has somehow managed to sneak a cellphone into the institute, and an unstable young redneck girl (a genuinely intimidating Juno Temple).

REVIEW: "Unsane"

Seemingly influenced by Sam Fuller’s 1963 psychodrama Shock Corridor, Soderbergh uses Unsane’s setup to explore the perils of a system that treats healthcare not as a public service but as a commercial enterprise. As Nate explains to Sawyer, it’s in the interest of the institute to keep her in their care until her insurance coverage runs out and she no longer provides a source of income for the facility.

This is a fascinating premise in itself, and midway through Unsane I was beginning to think it might be the director’s best work since his 1989 debut, Sex, Lies and Videotape. Foy is a magnetic presence, and even though the film paints Sawyer as complicated at best, unlikeable at worst, we’re always fully behind her quest to attain freedom. The use of natural light allowed by the iPhone gives the film a suitably clinical and sickly aesthetic, and the format’s distinctive aspect ratio is narrow enough to evoke claustrophobic confinement, wide enough to tease a world beyond the frame.



The article continues after this ad

 


Things begin to go awry when the film morphs from a politically motivated exposé of corruption to a run of the mill but poorly plotted psychological thriller as Sawyer’s former stalker (Joshua Leonard, best known as one of the doomed protagonists of The Blair Witch Project, a movie whose innovative use of technology no doubt left an impression on Soderbergh) turns up as a member of staff at the facility.

It all gets a little silly from this point, with the film raising the awkward question of how Sawyer’s stalker could have possibly known she would end up an inmate at that particular institute. Further plot holes emerge on what had been a smooth thoroughfare of a storyline as the movie struggles to mine tension from a subplot that serves merely as a distraction from a broader societal question. Had Soderbergh remained focussed on his film’s initial theme, Unsane might have created a wider Get Out style conversation around the ethics of commercializing the care industry. As it is, most viewers will leave Soderbergh’s film asking questions about minor unexplained plot points.

Unsane - 3 stars out of 5

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh. Starring: Claire Foy, Joshua Leonard, Jay Pharoah, Juno Temple, Amy Irving





For more by this author, click here






UCPAC Presents Three Classic 80s Films on 35mm Film
 (RAHWAY, NJ) -- A series of three classic films is being presented on 35mm film at Union County Performing Arts Center’s Main Stage theater. All viewings cost a $5 admission ticket that includes a 30 minute pre-show on the theater’s historic "Biggest Little Wurlitzer" organ and free popcorn along with the film screening. The films include The Breakfast Club (January 25), Pretty Woman (February 15), and The Karate Kid (March 8).
Hopewell Theater Hosts Special Valentine's Screening of "Casablanca" With Supper
(HOPEWELL, NJ) -- Hopewell Theater will host a special “date night” celebration of Valentine’s Day with a screening of the classic romance film Casablanca paired with an optional Moroccan supper on Valentine's Day, Thursday, February 14. An undisputed masterpiece and perhaps Hollywood's quintessential statement on love and romance, Casablanca has only improved with age, boasting career-defining performances from Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.
A Look At New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2019
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, in association with the Rutgers University Program In Cinema Studies, presents the New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2019 which marks the festival's 37th Anniversary.  The Festival will take place between January 25 and March 1, 2019. Showcasing new international films, American independent features, experimental and short subjects, classic revivals, and cutting-edge documentaries, the New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2019 will feature over 35 film screenings. 
NJPAC Presents Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Live in Concert With The NJSO
(NEWARK, NJ) -- The Harry Potter Film Concert Series returns to New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Live in Concert, on Saturday, June 1, 2019 at 2:00pm and 7:30pm. See the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra perform the magical score live while the entire film plays in high-definition on a 40-foot screen.


REVIEW: "If Beale Street Could Talk"
Outside of cinephile circles, filmmaker Barry Jenkins is perhaps best known for his role in arguably the greatest debacle in the history of the Academy Awards. On February 26th, 2017, La La Land was mistakenly announced as the Best Picture winner, only for it then to be revealed that Jenkins’ Moonlight was the actual winner.
New Jersey Film Festival: Spring 2019 - First 2 Weeks Preview
The New Jersey Film Festival - Spring 2019 takes place between January 25 and March 1, 2019 on the Rutgers University campus in New Brunswick. Showcasing new international films, American independent features, experimental and short subjects, classic revivals, and cutting-edge documentaries, the festival features over 35 film screenings. Here is a preview of the first two weeks of the festival. For the full schedule visit www.njfilmfest.com
REVIEW: "Cold War"
Back in 2006, German cinema scored something of a breakout global hit with Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives of Others, which followed the travails of a group of disgruntled, pro-western artists in communist era East Germany. At the time I couldn’t help view the protagonists of Von Donnersmarck’s drama as the sort of people who would be just as discontented with their lot if they found themselves living in the capitalist west. The grass is always greener on the other side.
REVIEW: "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald"
For better or worse (worse in this writer’s eyes), the success of the Harry Potter franchise is largely responsible for the current Hollywood landscape of endless sequels, prequels and that awful phrase “universe building.” The Potter films showed Hollywood that it was a far safer financial model to hook audiences into returning for instalments of an ongoing series rather than taking a punt on the unknown quantity of original properties.
REVIEW: "Shoplifters"
Earlier this year, writer/director extraordinaire Hirokazu Kore-eda surprised us with The Third Murder, a legal thriller that made for a stark departure from the sentimental family dramas he’s become known for. With his Palme d’Or winning Shoplifters, Kore-eda is back on familiar ground, but this particular family drama shares much in common with The Third Murder. With his thriller, Kore-eda deconstructed the genre, forcing us to question how willingly we place our trust in a storyteller. Similarly, Shoplifters sees Kore-eda lull his audience into a false sense of security, making us develop a warmth and affection towards people who may not warrant such empathy.






Event calendar
Tuesday, Jan 22, 2019

Sorry, no events listed for today.
Here are some upcoming events.


2019-01-23
Rechnitz Halls DiMattio Gallery, Monmouth University @ 10:00am
West Long Branch

2019-01-23
Pollak Theatre @ Monmouth University @ 7:30pm
West Long Branch

2019-01-24
New Jersey Repertory Company @ 8:00pm
Long Branch








 






















For more on our awards, click here








New Jersey Stage © 2019 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 | info@newjerseystage.com

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.