Talked out of reporting the crime to the authorities by a friend who argues that it will have a detrimental effect on her own life on campus, Noelle carries the burden for a few days until, to her utmost surprise, she’s invited back to her aggressor’s house. Upon confronting him, an accident offers Noelle closure of sorts, but it also triggers in her a motivation to seek out other wronged victims and their attackers, who have escaped punishment by a system seemingly in favour of the guilty party.
Packed full of “seriously, they went there?” moments, M.F.A. feels like a reductive response to a far weightier issue. As soon as Eastwood goes on her killing spree, the film loses any sort of credibility. Her leap from timid emo to avenging angel would be hard to get behind in a crudely-drawn exploitation piece, but here it feels deeply contrived and implausible. That the killings suddenly begin to reinvigorate her as an artist is an interesting place to go, but that’s never satisfyingly explored. Like her papa, Eastwood has an undeniable screen presence but isn’t given nearly enough to work with and is constantly left adrift by a script that lumbers along, offering little in the way of insight or enlightenment.
The viewer’s patience is thoroughly tested in the absurd third act, where intentional moments of humour surface (Clifton Collins Jr. as a dogged detective on her trail, gains more and more fake facial hair as the film progresses) and the narrative finally falls flat on its face. It’s unfortunate that the attempts at offering an unflinching examination into rape culture comes off more like a post-watershed episode of 90s Beverly Hills 90210, complete with a horribly didactic end scene where the protagonist neatly summarises her journey and conflict, completely at odds with the gratuitous bloodshed left in her wake.