SXSW FILM 2013
By Linc Leifeste | March 18, 2013
Director: Geoff Marslett
Writers: Geoff Marslett, Lauren Modery
Starring: Trieste Kelly Dunn, Francisco Barreiro, Melissa Bisagni, Ashley Spillers, Heather Kafka, John Merriman, Geoff Marslett, Geoff Lerer, Jennymarie Jemison, Chris Doubek, Josephine Decker
An Austin film. A South by Southwest film. A festival film. Yes, Geoff Marslett’s Loves Her Gun fits that bill but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Filmed (mostly) in Austin by a local director (and seventh generation Texan to boot!) and filled with Austin talent, it has the look and feel of a local film. Yes, by that I mean it has certain limitations but also certain distinctive qualities such as quirky heart and soul. This is Austin, after all, where “local” generally equals creativity and talent even if a little rough around the edges.
After finding herself the victim of a violent attack, Allie (Trieste Kelly Dunn) impulsively flees New York for the safer environs of Austin, Texas, catching a ride in the quirky RV of her friend Zoe’s (Ashley Spillers) band, the Karate Kids (the footage of the band, which is based on Marslett’s band of the same name and features members dressed in karate outfits with fake prosthetic arms lifted in a perennial crane-kick position, is hilarious). But she soon realizes that it’s going to take more than mileage to escape the lingering fear and anxiety that her attack has instilled. A possible avenue of overcoming her fears opens up when she’s introduced to gun ownership, a Texas staple, leading to a tragic transformation from fearful victim to confident aggressor.
But the “Gun” in the film’s title, despite playing a prominent role, actually has very little screen time. The majority of the film’s story focuses on relationships and interactions, ably meanderingly capturing the feeling of a slice-of-Austin-life, while providing some wry social commentary. Landing in Austin with no job and no direction, Allie winds up crashing at the home of Zoe’s clearly smitten band mate, Clark (Francisco Barreiro). She’s soon generously offered a job by his landscaper Sarah (Melissa Bisagni) and as the two bond, Sarah encourages Allie to buy a handgun for protection. It’s interesting that both people who are showing Allie the most kindness are seemingly motivated by something more than just altruism. Marslett made the bold decision to write a script basically void of dialogue, opting to allow the actors the freedom to create their own (with the exception of the occasional scripted lines needed to assure the story stayed on course). My sense is that, while this probably added a degree of naturalism to the film, the film’s pacing could have been helped by a few more sharply crafted lines of dialogue.
By the time Allie finally gets a gun, about an hour into the film, it’s not long before she uses it in an altercation with Clark’s troubled neighbors (Austin acting stalwarts Heather Kafka and Jon Merriman). An intriguing incident, both because of Jon Merriman’s unusually menacing role and because of the gun’s role as a potential good guy, it is soon overshadowed by the film’s dramatic ending, which could have packed a much stronger punch if not so obviously foreshadowed. While Marslett has made it clear that he was trying to steer away from making a message film, instead honorably trying to encourage people to think more broadly and openly about both the pros and cons (rights and responsibilities) of gun ownership, the film speaks loudly about the overwhelming climate of fear in our society.