Madeline’s Madeline Bestows an Uncanny Perspective of Mental Illness

I decided to take an hour-long detour down to a college campus theater—which I kid you not, was the only theater within an 100 miles radius from my home playing this movie—to witness Josephine Decker‘s Madeline’s Madeline. My entire theater resulted in complete emptiness, which was keen, but also depressing at the same time. Despite having to undergo reality knowing the deplorable circumstances in which this movie’s release (and like many other indie flicks) is being handled with, I do have to say, the drive was still worth seeing the fortuitous tale of 16-Year-Old Madeline none of the less. 

Let’s talk about the term “artsy” for a sec. I feel as if the term has molded into somewhat of a negative connotation over the past few years as if it’s a genre that only quote on quote “hipsters” can fathom. “Artsy” has also been downgraded to being perceived as movies that exclusively feature weird, uncanny, or agonizingly ostracized material—while I quite relish these kinds of features, many would argue otherwise. Arthouse films defined by cinema-lovers, I assume, believe them to be movies that are independent, individualistic, atypical, or something that is minor within its prosthetics but major within its moral contexts. To those who are claiming that this film is too “artsy” for them, I urge you to take some downtime to reflect, and truly determine why this movie didn’t work for you instead of just blindly using a revved up slang to explain unsatisfaction. Madeline’s Madeline is not necessarily artsy, it’s just plainly distinct. It should be admired not labeled. That’s the end of my lecture. Thanks for staying till’ the end of it. 

If Helena Howard—who plays the main character, Madeline—doesn’t get nominated for an academy award, we boycott. She by far gives the most visceral performance of the year right next to Hereditary’s Toni Collette’s. She is seriously someone to look forward to in the near future of cinema. She’s a hidden talent that’s career just got its blossoming. 

You feel psychotic throughout this. You really do. You feel as if you are in the head of this mentally ill character Madeline, and you begin to come to terms with her in-visionary perspective behind her life, and the beauty but also the terror within it. I’ve never seen a film approach such a fascinating charactorial perspective. Film enthusiasts should be encouraged to study such a unparalleled take on “point of view.”

Of course, the filmmaking is exquisite in its own unusual design. It’s dreamy, dozey, and surreal, and I adored it. Like a natural high. 

If you want me to mention any flaws, I guess the pacing is a bit droog (it’s kind of a b at times). It’s hard to stay focused all the time since the story—I don’t want to say doesn’t go anywhere—takes a while before its resolutions are presented. Besides this (and maybe some nitpicks with the finale that I won’t get into it) this doesn’t contradict how mesmeric the experience was. 

It’s hard to rate this one, since I’m a bit conflicted with what I have watched—there’s really nothing like it; it’s undoubtably the most experimental film of the year—but in terms of the filmmaking power and the overall core themes/matter that had me in this film’s grasp, I feel somewhat comfortable giving these aspects of Madeline’s Madeline: (Verdict: A-)

I guess what some may perceive cuckoo others may perceive as normal. What is truly psychotic? What is craziness? Are civilized people really the ones who have lost their minds? We may never know. Maybe there is no answer. This movie is going to make me get into way to many philosophical thoughts/discussions. Thanks Decker.  

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