LOVES HER GUN, 2013
Director: Geoff Marslett
Stars: Trieste Kelly Dunn, Heather Kafka, Chris Doubek
Review by Joshua Starnes
Loves Her Gun is a romantic tragedy about a young woman who flees violence in New York for the laid back environment in central Texas.
Why do people love guns? Is it the power? The safety? The enjoyment and sense of release from firing the weapon? Do they even know?
"Loves Her Gun," the newest film from writer-director Geoff Marslett ("Mars") is going to ask some of those questions, as well as some more human ones about what it means for a person to be affected by those questions.
And it's going to do so through the perspective of Allie (Trieste Kelly Dunn), a transplanted New Yorker turned transplanted Texan. After being mugged near her home in New York, Allie decides to give up on her life there and run as far as she can from the feelings of anxiety and defenselessness the attack raised in her. Seeing the bandits masked faces every time she closes her eyes, Allie quickly hitches up with the next people she meets—a rock band inspired by the old Ralph Macchio Karate Kid films—and rides with them back to their home base in Austin, Texas.
A classic independent film, nearly a blueprint for how one is constructed, "Loves Her Gun" is a character oriented minimalist film with an agonizingly slowly developing plot (the gun itself doesn't appear until three quarters of the way in) and an almost novelistic approach to its storytelling. It's the kind of drama that shows what film is capable of and which is seldom attempted on the big screen.
Despite the allusion of the title, it's really the ‘Her' that is the active word here. As Allie tries to put her life back together in her new home she quickly begins building new relationships with the people around her--band leader Clark, Clark's friend Zoe, Zoe's gardener Charlotte—in a cascade of human connection she can't seem to outrun no matter how much she tries.
And she tries hard. Every time anything stressful rears its head Allie's first response is to turn away from it, to just get away. It's a reaction made all the more real and evocative by the improvisational nature of the performances. With a story but no finished screenplay, each scene is played out with the actors own words developing Marslett's story, creating a feel as if we are peaking into a real world as it is unfolding. In lesser hands it could be distracting in Marslett's, it's engrossing.
Gradually even Allie can't ignore her own problems or the damage her attack has done to her psychically. With running from her problems not working she decides to try strength instead, looking for reassurance in the power of firearms, a symbol of her ability to take control back for herself.
Once that corner is turned you can pretty much see where "Loves Her Gun" is going but that doesn't blunt its message too much, there's too much artistry involved for that. Yeah it's slow, maybe too slow and drawn out versus the amount of character work you actually get. Nor is Francisco Barreiro's Clark magnetic enough to make him believable as the fulcrum so many relationships turn around. He's the one character who probably needed a more scripted performance as much of his improve devolves into muttering.
But that's okay. For what problems "Loves Her Gun" does have, it has more solutions. The skill involved in the making is apparent given the way it gets around issues a larger budgeted film would brute force its way through. With solid performances, real emotions and real thought behind it "Loves Her Gun" nearly hits the dramatic trifecta; the decision to hold the gun moments back till the very end is the only real drawback. Give this man a real budget and I expect we'll get something truly amazing one day.