A dark debut
Westworld's Evan Rachel Wood turns from abused to abuse in the dark and raw film debut of the Sanchez brothers.Billed as a suspense drama film, Allure is much more subtle than that, playing to its strengths as a low budget indie piece and examining the damaged individual at its core, and the damage she wreaks. It's a slight affair, restricted to a few often seedy, claustrophobic locations, where the psychological tension ebbs and flows, as friendship turns to something more, and obsession overcomes all.The story follows Evan Rachel Wood's Laura, who works for her dad (Denis O'Hare) in a simple cleaning job, but has some issues, which she often tries to address through meaningless, violent sex, which she perpetrates upon male clients in a motel room. Her latest job, however, puts her in contact with Julia Sarah Stone's Eva, a disillusioned teenager who catches Laura's eye and gets drawn into a dangerous relationship.
Brothers Carlos and Jason Sanchez make their writer/director debut here, in a small but competent project which plays to its strengths - which mostly come in the form of lead actress Evan Rachel Wood. They offer some interesting hints of nascent style, playing with portentous imagery and allow the almost stage-play like narrative to unfold slowly, refusing to spoon-feed the audience as to what's to come, even if the piece still seems quite narrative in scope.
The trio of main actors - Wood is joined by American Horror Story mainstay Denis O'Hare, who often feels like TV's answer to Richard Jenkins (in a good way), and by The Killing's Julia Sarah Stone, a young actress who certainly seems like one to watch in the future - make the piece, but it's Wood who holds the film together, gifted another choice part that she can get her teeth into. Wood is an underrated actress, or perhaps one whose interesting choices in independent films often leave her ignored by the masses. She made her breakthrough in the gritty but excellent Thirteen, and has taken mostly tough indie roles in the fifteen years since, often playing the same sort of damaged individual she started her career playing, including in one of her slightly more mainstream roles as Mickey Rourke's estranged daughter in The Wrestler. Turning to television saw her in True Blood and, eventually, the excellent new Westworld series, where she plays a big part, albeit within an even bigger cast. Here she comes full-circle, however, turning from damaged teen in Thirteen into a damaged adult whose fractured childhood sees her casting an obsessive shadow over a young teenage ward, vulnerable to her dangerous influence. Wood's in her element, at once capable of being a strong character, whilst also letting the stress cracks and scars show beneath.
Wood holds the film together, gifted another choice part that she can get her teeth into.
In other hands - whether we're talking about the filmmakers or the star here - this could have easily devolved into a cheap and predictable teen psycho thriller, cut with one-dimensional characters and cliched plot beats, but the Sanchez brothers turn left every time you expect a right, even when that takes their debut project into choppy waters, attempting to navigate controversially dark territory which is at times painfully convincing and thus extremely hard to endure. As stated, it is a slight affair, and not likely to make even a blip on the average moviegoers radar, but it speaks to the impressive taste in movie choices that Wood continues to make, and her commitment to avoid anything particularly mainstream. It's another interesting role to add to her damaged individuals indie resume.
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