SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2013
By Don Simpson | January 27, 2013
Director: Stacie Passon
Writer: Stacie Passon
Starring: Robin Weigert, Maggie Siff, Johnathan Tchaikovsky, Ben Shenkman, Julie Fain Lawrence, Janel Moloney, Emily Kinney, Laila Robins
It all starts with a blow to the head. That is Abby’s (Robin Weigert) bloody wake-up call that there must be more to life than her sexless marriage to Kate (Julie Fain Lawrence). Desperate to find a [oh! you] pretty thing to get her off, Abby hires a female prostitute. But, Abby finds her first belle du jour to be a bit too…dirty…so she turns to her friendly neighborhood contractor-cum-pimp, Justin (Johnny Tchaikovsky), to recommend an upscale hooker who will leave Abby utterly orgasmic with joy. Realizing that this new sex habit might be a bit too expensive for her budget, Abby agrees to let Justin pimp her out.
Sure, some of the situations in Stacie Passon’s Concussion may seem a bit ridiculous at times, but Robin Weigert is always convincing as Abby. Consistently intense with intent, Weigert’s Abby is a woman on a mission. Passon thankfully never sexualizes Abby, instead she develops Abby into a complex and thought-provoking character. Despite the tangled web of a secret life that Abby weaves, she remains empathetic. We feel for Abby, we want her to have a happy sex life; all the while, Abby wants to help make other women happy as well. This is precisely Passon’s true genius — her ability to portray prostitution as a social service. Abby is neither skanky nor sleazy, poor nor desperate; she is an intelligent, talented and successful woman who just so happens to rediscover her love of sex by way of prostitution. If she can teach other women how to have healthy and happy sex lives — and make some decent cash while doing so — why the heck not? I mean, what other choice does she have? Would it be better for her to never experience sexual pleasure with another woman?
We have seen plenty of silver screen narratives over the decades in which a husband strays from a sexless heterosexual marriage to enjoy sex with prostitutes. When a man does that to a woman that is bad, right? Well, at least that is what the history of cinema has taught us. That is what I find most interesting about Concussion, because Abby seems to be in the right. But, why is Abby so different than her male predecessors of cinema? Is it because she is a woman? Is it because she is having sex with other women? Or, is it simply because Passon adequately justifies Abby’s actions?
Concussion is bookended by two very inspired soundtrack choices, opening with a mood-defining montage to David Bowie’s “Oh! You Pretty Things” and closing with Brian Eno’s “Some of Them Are Old.” As I walked out of the theater, a line from Eno’s song became lodged in my brain: “Please be still and put your madness in a jar; but do beware, it will follow you, it will follow you.” What a brilliant use of Eno’s lyrics to foretell Abby’s future! So, not only does Passon earn some extra brownie points from me for using two of my favorite songs on the soundtrack, but the lyrics for both songs reverberate with meaning within the context of this film.