Madeline’s Madeline is indefinable, indescribable, and a bitch to write about. The focus is on Madeline (Helena Howard), obviously, a teenager who struggles with her home life but thrives when rehearsing with her improvised theatre troupe. At home her mother (Miranda July) struggles to relate to or control a daughter whose mind works in a different way to her own. At the theatre she looks up to the leader, Evangeline (Molly Parker), who starts to use Madeline as her creative crutch.
Writer-director Josephine Decker infuses parts of the film with a dreamlike quality as we see Madeline’s world through her eyes. The result is a film that may not be telling us the truth all the time and that contains scenes that some might find pretentious. You have been warned. This is a film involving an improv theatre troupe after all.
Theatre nonsense and dreamlike qualities aside this film has three complex female characters at the forefront; each brilliant played to imperfection. The real revelation is Howard who, in her first professional acting role, becomes the film’s anchor and has to both act and act at acting. Howard is a phenomenal talent and allowed me to put aside my initial trepidation at being told, “You are not the cat, you are inside the cat”, and instead let the emotions of the film pull me in.
A masterpiece or low-key pretentious? Maybe both.