Thursday, November 13, 2014

Manny & Lo

Written and directed by Lisa Krueger, Manny & Lo is the story of two sisters who run away from foster homes as they trek to find places to crash until the oldest learns she is pregnant as they kidnap a baby store clerk to help them. The film is a coming-of-age tale where two sisters deal with the need to find a maternal figure as well as coping with growing pains as they’re respectively played by Scarlett Johansson and Aleksa Palladino. Also starring Mary Kay Place, Glenn Fitzgerald, and Paul Guilfoyle. Manny & Lo is a charming and captivating film from Lisa Krueger.

The film revolves around two sisters who both run away from different fosters home as they go on a road trip where they crash into houses that haven’t been sold while shoplift or do whatever to survive. When the eldest Lo learns she is pregnant as she and her younger sister Manny hide out in the country, they kidnap a baby store clerk due to her knowledge about babies despite the fact that she has no children. While it’s a story that is quite simple, it does play into many aspects about what these two young girls want from this eccentric woman named Elaine (Mary Kay Place) by taking her to this house in the middle of the woods as she becomes a profound influence for the two young girls. Lisa Krueger’s screenplay is largely told from the perspective of Manny as she is this 11-year old girl who is very mature for her age as she copes with Lo’s immaturity and sense of danger. While it’s clear the two are in need of a maternal figure, there is a conflict about whether they should have Elaine around as she is quite odd and doesn’t seem to mind getting kidnapped.

Krueger’s direction maintains that air of simplicity in the story as she mostly goes for shots that are quite entrancing in its usage of medium shots and close-ups. Shot on location in rural areas in New Jersey as well as nearby small towns, it’s a film that has the sense of wandering that is often prevalent in road movies but it’s mixed in with this coming-of-age tone that allows the story to be more compelling. Even in the way Krueger would shoot a few wide shots shown from the perspective of the two where they observe a location or a group of people. Some of it is played for laughs while it’s mainly a light-hearted in terms of the relationship between Elaine and the two girls. It does get more dramatic in the third act when it becomes clear of how much the girls need Elaine. Overall, Krueger creates a very engaging and touching film about two runaway sisters looking for a home and a maternal figure.

Cinematographer Tom Krueger does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the colorful yet naturalistic look of the daytime exterior/interior locations with some unique lighting for some scenes set at night. Editor Colleen Sharp does nice work as the editing is very straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into the humor and drama. Production designer Sharon Lomofsky and set decorator Dina Goldman do terrific work with the look of the country home that Manny and Lo had found as it has that remoteness that they‘re looking for.

Costume designer Jennifer Parker does wonderful work with the costumes from the white nurse uniform that Elaine wears to the more casual look of Manny and Lo. Sound editor Richard King does superb work with the sound to play into the low-key sound of the locations as well as the way music is heard on location. The film’s music by John Lurie is fantastic as it is this mixture of folk-based music with elements of vibraphones and keyboards as it is very low key while the soundtrack features elements of punk and metal plus soul music from LaBelle.

The casting by Ellen Parks is brilliant as it features some notable small roles from Cameron Boyd as a young boy Manny befriends, Glenn Fitzgerald as Lo’s boyfriend Joey who tries to do nice things for her, and Paul Guilfoyle as the owner of the country house who appears in its third act. Mary Kay Place is amazing as Elaine as this baby store clerk who knows a lot about what babies want as she helps Lo with her pregnancy while getting to know Manny. Aleksa Palladino is excellent as Lo as this 16-year old woman who is dealing with being pregnant as she is always aggressive and trying to keep things in control as she realizes that she needs Elaine.

Finally, there’s Scarlett Johansson in an incredible performance as Manny as it’s Johansson in one of her earlier performances. It’s a performance where Johansson has this very evocative quality where she is this 11-year old girl who is always being observing while trying to figure out what to do as she is clearly more mature than Lo as it’s just a real breakthrough for someone who would become one of cinema’s finest actresses.

Manny & Lo is a remarkable film from Lisa Krueger that features superb performances from Aleksa Palladino and Mary Kay Place as well as a mesmerizing performance from a young Scarlett Johansson. The film is definitely a unique genre-bending film as it’s part road-film mixed in with a coming-of-age drama that also has elements of humor. In the end, Manny & Lo is a sensational film from Lisa Krueger.

© thevoid99 2014

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