To Leslie

One of the ways I used to amuse myself at the end of the year is by going to Box Office Mojo and looking at the bottom of the list to see which movies I saw I made up a measurable portion of the box office for. Mojo stops at the top 200 now as IMDB/Amazon continues on its journey to destroy everything good in life (their redesign of the people pages is not only ugly and clunky, and I guess designed primarily for phones, it also robs the site of certain beloved functionality). So this year I went to The Numbers, which does not actually list To Leslie, even though the list goes down to Indemnity with a box office of $347, and it does list this movie has having over $1,000 in sales (internationally?).

I’m guessing that this flick, like some other odd ones (Ninja Badass anyone?) didn’t get any kind of formal release and only appeared in theaters by special arrangement. And by theaters, I mean a theater, and the one I saw it in. The Boy and I account for about 2% of its total box office.

Which is kind of a shame. My refrain for 2022 has been “Who did they make this for?” I loved The Northman, don’t get me wrong, but I wouldn’t have spent $80M on it. I wouldn’t have spent $30M on it. Because I couldn’t answer the question “Who is going to want to see this?”

It’s easy to Monday morning quarterback, of course. But I am right.

To Leslie is more in the line of The Whale, a movie for actors to act in. It’s not going to be a big draw in the best of circumstances which, from a release viewpoint it didn’t have, which is a shame because it probably could draw some via word-of-mouth. That is to say, a movie about a woman on the skids a few years after winning the lottery isn’t a good starting point for putting butts in seats, but way, way too many of these movies like to show their characters hitting the skids—and then leave them there because, that’s like, life, man, and this one has a lot more respect for its characters and the audience to cop out like that.

In this movie, Andrea Riseborough (Oh, Mandy!) plays Leslie, who wins the lottery and blows it, big time, in the worst possible ways, and has now hit the skids. When the movie opens, she’s being thrown out of the motel she was staying in. She contrives to move in with her son (played by Owen Teague), whom she abandoned when she won the lottery, and who is wise to her many alcoholic tricks. He quickly kicks her out and she ends up going to live with some people who are not her parents (Stockard Channing and Stephen Root) but are willing to help her out if she follows some rules.

Which of course she can’t and ends up sleeping in an abandoned restaruant.

I swear Allison Janney gets better looking every year.

Marc Maron (!) is the motel manager that gives her a chance and another chance and another chance. And the problem of course is that when you’ve burned so many chances, nobody believes you when you try to turn it around. And in this movie, the upright characters—even some who were trying to help—also demonstrate their lack of grace and humility at times. Their humanity, if you will.

Everyone’s great in it. The supporting cast includes Allison Janney and Stephen Root, which would just about be reason enough to go see any movie. (I thought Maron and Janney had producer credits on this, but I can’t find any evidence of that.)

Anyway, Oscar bait for sure, but without the kick-em-when-they’re-down, unrelenting despair of a lot of such films. The movie gets you rooting for Leslie, and ultimately for most of the losers she hangs out with.

The Boy and I liked it, but obviously you’re going to have to be comfortable in the gutter for a while. At least the movie play on your sympathies and then abuse you for having them. (*kaff*thewhale*kaff*) Somewhat reminiscent of A Love Song, which I see I haven’t posted a review for yet…

Mayron with another great character actor, Andre Royo, as the “odd” motel janitor.

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