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M.F.A (Overlook Film Festival Review)

M.F.A (Overlook Film Festival Review)
04.29.2017by: Chris Bumbray
5 10

PLOT: After being raped, and accidently killing her attacker, an art student (Francesca Eastwood) starts killing other men on campus who’ve gotten away with sexual assault, channeling her vengeance into her art.

REVIEW: M.F.A is one third of a good movie, and while it eventually winds-up being fairly disposable, it gives actress Francesca Eastwood (daughter of Clint) her best showcase. Here, she plays a shy art student who, while attending a frat party, is violently raped by an acquaintance. Confronting him with his actions (to which he suggests she “go read a Jezebel article”) a tiny shove she gives him proves to be more than enough to end his life, and she gets away scot free. After all, he was a drunken frat boy; a fall could easily be accidental, right?

Up to this point, M.F.A isn’t half bad. Sexual assault on campus is indeed an epidemic, and there’s nothing about the first part of the movie that doesn’t feel like it could happen – making Eastwood’s predicament easy to identify with. There was a better, non-genre movie to be made in all this where Eastwood deals with the aftermath of the death, or the complexity of a cover-up, but it’s abandoned. Within minutes, this formerly shy art student is donning sexy wigs and seducing her way through a trio of frat boys who once got away with a violent rape, killing them in ways that look accidental, or so she hopes.

It’s at this point, and when the police star to investigate (with Clifton Collins Jr. in a small role as the investigating officer), that M.F.A started to lose me. The transition of Eastwood’s character to an avenging angel didn’t sit well – she didn’t seem the type and seems far too confident in her crimes. Yet, I can’t really fault anyone involved, as director Natalia Leite obviously wanted to make something that would appeal to genre fans – but Eastwood and the first third were good enough that it could have been a straight drama and been well-received.

Things perk up towards the end, with an intriguing twist that brings Eastwood’s roommate, played by screenwriter Leah McKendrick into the fray. Something is revealed about her past that gives Eastwood’s action some real heft, and the conclusion is surprisingly mature – once again making me wish this had been more psychological than genre fueled. In the end, M.F.A is a small film, but it’s a good effort from Eastwood, and McKendrick’s script and Leite’s direction show both have a lot of promise.

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