Thursday, May 23, 2024

“PARACHUTE”

THE STORY – After being released from rehab, Riley struggles navigating the line between love and a new addiction.

THE CAST – Courtney Eaton, Thomas Mann, Scott Mescudi, Francesca Reale, Gina Rodriguez, Joel McHale, Kathryn Gallagher, Dave Bautista, Chrissie Fit, Lukas Gage, Kelley Jakle, Jennifer Westfeldt & Bunny Gibson

THE TEAM – Brittany Snow (Director/Writer) & Becca Gleason (Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 97 Minutes


While Hollywood has made countless films about all sorts of addictions, mental health struggles, anxiety, and the like, eating disorders are a surprisingly rare topic on screen. Brittany Snow, star of the “Pitch Perfect” films, “X,” and more, has been open about her battle with anorexia and the effect that stardom at a young age had on her. This personal experience is undoubtedly why her directorial debut, “Parachute,” rings so true. It’s both an addiction story and a romance, as well as a painfully vulnerable portrait of the internal aches of keeping yourself from getting better. Co-written with Becca Gleason (“Summer of ’03”), “Parachute” hits many familiar notes, but tender storytelling makes this heartbreaking romance worthwhile.

Courtney Eaton (“Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Yellowjackets”) stars as Riley, fresh out of rehab but certainly not in a stable place. She has struggled with an eating disorder, body dysmorphia, and potentially love and sex addictions as well. As part of a 12-step recovery program, Riley must see a therapist (Gina Rodriguez), attend meetings, and avoid romantic relationships for 12 months. Naturally, she meets Ethan (Thomas Mann) on her first night out since returning. The pair hit it off immediately, ditching a karaoke party to grab some Thai food. Riley is upfront with Ethan about her situation, even though they both ignore wisdom and dive right into a makeout session. Their night screeches to a halt as clothes come off, and Riley’s struggle with her body prevents them from going further. That’s no problem for Ethan, though, who’s used to comforting a struggling loved one after taking care of his alcoholic father (Joel McHale).

The film lives and dies with Eaton’s magnificent performance. If “Parachute” isn’t a breakout role for her, something has gone terribly wrong. She captures the deep pain that accompanies body dysmorphia while remaining perfectly grounded at every turn. Oscillating between self-hatred and brilliantly charming, she doesn’t deliver a false note. It’s a physically demanding role, as Riley often abuses her body while also requiring a naturalism in the charming relationship blossoming with Ethan. Eaton and Mann share a beautiful chemistry, with their romance (or non-romance, depending on how honest they’re being) unfolding quite naturally. It’s exactly what you want in a film like this: they both hold each other back, but you desperately want it to work.

Riley and Ethan’s relationship deeply resonates thanks to Snow and Gleason’s excellent writing. They prop each other up, giving each other exactly what they want but keeping them from what they need. Riley’s inability to be alone with herself keeps her relying on Ethan. His need to always be the caretaker and savior keeps him comforting Riley. It’s painful to watch, as it could remind viewers how they might coddle their worst tendencies. “Parachute” does an especially phenomenal job putting us in Riley’s head. Whenever she meets a new woman, she compulsively compares their bodies. Quick snapshots of elbows, thighs, and stomachs help Riley size them up. It’s a tragic touch that tells us so much in just a flash.

“Parachute’s” story works quite well, allowing time to pass. Stories about connections like this take time, and most movies would condense it all into a matter of weeks. This movie takes place over the course of years. While that helps give the story time to mature, it also showcases how “Parachute” struggles with pacing. Without any indication, either visually or emotionally, characters will casually mention that a previous scene happened months ago. The movie does shockingly little to convey the passage of time, which can make it confusing to follow. There are moments of brilliant editing, as in a gorgeous penultimate scene at a party told almost entirely in slow motion, but seemingly random leaps of time drag it down a bit.

Between Eaton’s remarkable performance and Snow’s impressive storytelling, there is much to love about “Parachute.” It’s an achingly authentic portrayal of how our most beloved relationships can still indulge our worst vices. As one of the rare films dealing with eating disorders, it showcases how not all body dysmorphia is merely a hyper-fixation of food, as it’s so often portrayed. The movie is unflinching in its depiction of poor choices but doesn’t shame the characters for them, giving them grace to figure it out as they go. As the film’s title suggests, even a terrifying fall from the sky can have the promise of a graceful landing.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Courtney Eaton delivers phenomenal work as Riley, capturing the deep pain of an eating disorder while remaining perfectly grounded. The chemistry between Eaton and Thomas Mann is flawless. A heartbreaking romance that shows great promise for first-time director Brittany Snow.

THE BAD - Struggles with its pacing and ability to convey time passing. Outside of Eaton's brilliant performance, there's not much to help this stand out from other "right person, wrong time" romances.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 7/10

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Daniel Howat
Daniel Howathttps://nextbestpicture.com
Movie and awards season obsessed. Hollywood Critics Association Member.

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>Courtney Eaton delivers phenomenal work as Riley, capturing the deep pain of an eating disorder while remaining perfectly grounded. The chemistry between Eaton and Thomas Mann is flawless. A heartbreaking romance that shows great promise for first-time director Brittany Snow.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>Struggles with its pacing and ability to convey time passing. Outside of Eaton's brilliant performance, there's not much to help this stand out from other "right person, wrong time" romances.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>7/10<br><br>"PARACHUTE"