We’ve all been there when, you know, one moment you’re fighting and bickering with your old friend and the next thing you know you’re both completely naked and having a cuddle in the woods. No? Well, that’s just one of many unfathomable aspects to Katie Aselton’s sophomore feature Black Rock.
We begin with what appears to be just two friends, Sarah (Kate Bosworth) and Lou (Lake Bell) heading away for a weekend retreat at a remote island off the coast of Maine. However upon arrival it seems that Sarah had also invited Abby (Aselton) to join them, despite her intense rivalry with Lou having fallen out a few years previous. The trio decide to set their personal issues aside in a bid to enjoy their weekend away, however any such enjoyment is jeopardised when this supposedly placid trip becomes a fatal fight for survival.
There is a great moment in this picture when we witness the turning point, when Black Rock goes from a buddy drama to a full on, intense thriller, and it happens so suddenly. This works effectively as it’s like real life, you can’t foresee or predict such a life-changing moment happening, and Aselton captures that notion well. However the opening half an hour is certainly the more enjoyable of the piece, as the characters are genuinely interesting and their damaged relationships make for an intriguing watch. However once the dynamic changes and mood shifts, the film steadily heads down hill as we spiral into deep, dark and certainly avoidable places.
The second half of this picture is simply over elaborate and all rather preventable. Something bad occurs, but why can’t our characters just talk it over like adults? Seriously, put your guns down guys. It just doesn’t feel quite believable enough, as the characters we are introduced to don’t seem to bear much resemblance to those that finish the piece. In order to believe in this violent streak they all seem to share, there needs to be a few more telling signs earlier on, as we escalate carelessly into a blood bath.
The characters themselves are under written too, a real shame given the screenwriter Mark Duplass excels in crafting incredibly authentic and fascinatingly intricate roles, in the likes of Cyrus and Jeff, Who Lives at Home. It’s equally as much as a shame as far as Bell in concerned, taking on a role that has so little depth or charisma – without that quirkiness that she excels in. Her directorial début In a World… is a creative and innovative piece of filmmaking where she plays a strong willed female wanting to make it in a male-dominated industry. Well if she really wants that to happen, then she is going to have to choose better films than this.
That said, there is overriding element of ‘girl power’ to Black Rock and it’s enjoyable and enlightening to see such an approach taken, as despite the continuing rise in prominent female leads, such roles still remain a scarcity in Hollywood, so this should be encouraged. However Aselton does get dangerously close to undoing such good work with a hugely superfluous nudity scene that feels so awkward and gratuitous.
On the whole Black Rock remains a short but sweet film, yet sadly, and despite the suspenseful atmosphere and enrapturement of certain scenes, is too forgettable a feature film.