Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Tribes of Palos Verdes

Based on the novel by Joy Nicholson, The Tribes of Palo Verdes is the story of a family who move to Los Angeles in the Palos Verdes suburbs as they adjust to their new living as a teenage girl copes with the changes in her family as she finds solace through surfing. Directed by Emmett and Brendan Malloy and screenplay by Karen Croner, the film is a coming-of-age drama that explore a young girl and her twin brother deal with their surroundings while their parents’ marriage is falling apart. Starring Jennifer Garner, Maika Monroe, Justin Kirk, Elisabeth Rohm, Goran Visnjic, Joely Fisher, and Alicia Silverstone. The Tribes of Palos Verdes is a compelling and somber film from Emmett and Brendan Malloy.

The film follows a family from Michigan who move to the affluent suburbs of Palos Verdes in California as the new environment would end up bringing trouble to the family where a teenage girl discovers the solace that is surfing. It’s a film that explores a new world for this family in the hopes they can do something new but cracks would start to emerge with a couple’s marriage crumbles with its twin teenage children watching as they each react to this split in different ways. Karen Croner’s screenplay is largely told by Medina Mason (Maika Monroe) in a somewhat reflective voice-over narrative as she talks about how her family moved because her father Phil (Justin Kirk) got a new job in California and how the move ended up destroying the family when Phil begins an affair with another woman and falls for her to the ire of his wife Sandy (Jennifer Garner) and Medina’s twin brother Jim (Cody Fern). Phil’s new life and demands at work would cause Sandy to have a breakdown while Jim becomes interested in drugs leaving Medina to make sense of everything where surfing has become an escape as she hopes to help her brother who starts to feel neglected by their father and enabled by their mother.

The direction of Emmett and Brendan Malloy does have elements of style with its recurring images of water and ocean waves as this air of tranquility that Medina craves for. Shot on location in and around Palos Verdes in California, the location is a character itself as is the home of the Mason family that has a nice backyard view of the coastal area that includes a beach where surfers surf big waves. The Malloys’ usage of wide shots definitely add to the look and tone of the film as well as capture this air of blandness that Medina describes where all of the homes have their grass cut at a certain length, their roofs featuring a specific tile, and all sorts of things. Everyone hangs out at a country club or at a party as the Malloys’ usage of medium shots and close-ups play into the intimacy of the film as well as Sandy’s trouble to adjust and try to fit in. The Malloys would also amp up the drama as it play into Phil’s new life that includes his girlfriend’s son Adrian (Noah Silver) who shares Medina’s concerns leading to a relationship between the two just as Medina’s family life starts to become undone leading her to make a stand to help them. Overall, the Malloys create a captivating and engaging film about a young woman dealing with the unraveling of her family in their new environment.

Cinematographer Giles Dunning does excellent work with the film’s cinematography to capture the sunny look of the daytime exteriors with some stylish lighting for some of the interior scenes at night. Editors Tracy Adams and Luis Carballar do terrific work with the editing as it feature bits of jump-cuts and slow-motion cuts for some scenes involving the waves as much of it is straightforward. Production designer Stephanie Hamilton Haas, with set decorator Devynne Lauchner and art director Jessica Shorten, is brilliant for the look of the home the Masons live in and the work that Sandy would do later in the film to cope with her emotions as well as the look of the house that Phil would live in. Costume designer Anette Cseri does nice work with the costumes as it has this mixture of posh-like clothing some of the residents of Palos Verdes wear to the more ragged look of the surfers.

The visual effects work of Fernando Torres Idrovo is fantastic for one key scene in the film as it relates to wildfires that would be a key moment for the film’s third act. Sound editor David Barber does superb work with the sound in capturing the sound of waves from afar as well as scenes involving parties and loud music along with some of the quieter moments in the film. The film’s music by Gustavo Santaolalla is amazing for its ambient-folk based score that play into the drama and the tranquility of the sea as it is a highlight of the film while music supervisor Season Kent creates a music soundtrack that features an array of indie and mainstream music from the likes of Jack Johnson, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti with Dam-Funk, Tomorrow Tulips, King Krule, Branden Miller, Bahamas, and Cherry Glazerr.

The casting by Rich Delia is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Elisabeth Rohm and Joely Fisher as a couple of Palos Verdes residents who alienate Sandy, Alex Knost as a famous surfer that Medina would make out with for a bit in a moment of confusion, Goran Visijnic as a man named Joe that Sandy meets in the second act as she invites him for dinner in an attempt to start a new relationship, Stevie Lynn Jones as Jim’s new girlfriend Heather, Alicia Silverstone as Phil’s new girlfriend in the real estate mogul Ava, and Noah Silver as Ava’s son Adrian who befriends Medina as they both share their disdain over their parents’ relationship as well as how it affects both of them. Justin Kirk is superb as Phil Mason as a doctor who leaves his wife for a new life as he tries to reconnect with his children only to not understand the damage he’s created.

Cody Fern is excellent as Medina’s twin brother Jim as a young man who at first fits in with the people of Palos Verdes but his father’s actions and growing alienation has him depending on prescription and illegal drugs to cope with the pain as he descends into a downward spiral. Jennifer Garner is amazing as Sandy Mason as a woman who has a hard time fitting in with her new environment as she unravels following news of Phil’s affair with Ava as she goes into denial over the severity of what is happening around her including her son’s drug use which she would unfortunately enable. Finally, there’s Maika Monroe in an incredible performance as Medina Mason as a young woman in her late teens coping with her family unraveling while discovering the world of surfing as she finds it as an escape but also a thing that allows her to belong where Monroe display a woman who is more than aware of what is happening but also find ways to keep herself sane with her family unraveling.

The Tribes of Palos Verdes is a marvelous film that features a great leading performance from Maika Monroe. Along with some strong supporting work from Cody Fern and Jennifer Garner as well as its evocative music score and soundtrack and gorgeous imagery. It’s a coming-of-age family drama that explore a family in a new environment and how the family unit cope with their world that lead to their disintegration. In the end, The Tribe of Palos Verdes is a remarkable film from Brendan and Emmett Malloy.

© thevoid99 2019


Brittani Burnham said...

I liked seeing Jennifer Garner in something like this because I feel she's been so typecast lately. Maika was also really solid. I enjoyed this one too.

Tom said...

This looks like a good movie with some good scenery of California. Maika was so good in The Guest and It Follows, and I have been wanting to see another movie with her in it (she is also in another film this year called Villains which is described as a horror comedy). It sounds like she is playing a part that Alicia could have played years ago.

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-This was a gem of a film that I think people should seek out.

@Tom-Maika Monroe is a really good actress as she is someone that I hope people do more with instead of putting her in crap like Independence Day 2.