Breakthrough Festival - June 12-18, NYC

Breakthrough Festival - June 12-18, NYC
Breakthrough Festival - an indie film festival, NYC

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cookies & Cream


Cookies & Cream, directed by Princeton Holt, is one of the strongest - well made, generally effective - ultra low budget debut feature dramas I've seen in several years. Although Cream is not technically polished as Medicine for Melancholy, both of these new features take a step away from "digital video tales of young people looking for love" land & decide to bother themselves with questions that deal with traditions & assumptions & perhaps questionable practices in the greater society. In Cookies the underlying subject matter is sex work. However, the main story is about a girl trying to find the right guy. This romantic drama in disguise is shot, edited, & scored well. Any lack of technical smoothness/a certain "raw"-ness in some places added positively to the world that was presented in the movie - or, the sometimes documentary like quality of camera & sound work heightened the realism factor - made the movie seem like a chronicle of a transitional period in the life of a real person.

In Cookies Carmen (played well by Jace Nicole) is engaged in a variety of sex work: porn, web cams, and perhaps other activities in that arena. Pretty quickly we learn that Carmen has a child - story of the father is not told - and is seeking a "normal" guy (a guy who is not heavily into porn & the sex-for-money world I guess, or at least not into her because she is in porn) AND is cool with the way that she makes money. One of Carmen's close friends who is also in the same line of work does seem to have a "normal" boyfriend who supports what she does for a living. Without giving away details that would reveal how the story ends, we see Carmen deal with 2 potential partners in the course of the movie. And, Cookies distinguishes itself from most recent DIY movies about 20-30 somethings by bringing in Carmen's parents into the story.

Though sex work is the character's occupation, this is not a sexually explicit - at least not visually - movie.

One problem I had with the movie - I know reviewers are supposed to deal with what is actually on the screen, but, as it was the case for me I am sure it will be the case for at least a few others - was that if the central dilemma of the main character is finding a "nice" guy, why doesn't she quit the porn biz? I talked with a few audience members who saw Cookies with me at the Sexy International Film Festival this past Saturday about this issue and most of them were not concerned with that question. Some of them had filled in the missing information on their own as to why Carmen does not give up porn in order to find the "right" man. So perhaps this question would not get in the way of most people in their attempt to enjoy Cookies. I would have liked to see more details - how & why did Carmen get into sex work/porn biz? What exactly is keeping her from finding a job in another industry that is less controversial/would not be an obstacle towards building the desired romantic relationship? But, these questions that I had may be beside the point - since the film declares in the beginning that the character wants to both keep doing what she does for a living AND wants to find a guy who treats what she does as just another job (even though it isn't). I believe the film does succeed in creating a story that seems realistic for a character who has what I think is a relatively impossible goal. In the end, I would also have liked to have seen exactly how the path the character chose as the answer to her dilemma came together.

Holt & Nicole do succeed very well in creating an intriguing main character. Cookies captures Carmen during one very interesting period in her life, but it did seem that there is a lot more to the character, and that the character will live on outside the final scene - I guess what I mean is that the character seemed like a real person even though her goal & circumstances were unusual/not similar to people I know well.

One aspect of the movie that I did enjoy a lot is the "post-racial" nature of the film. Cookies reflects the ethnic diversity that one sees in New York City.

Being a huge fan of NYC, I also enjoyed the beautiful shots of the city - there are many in the film. One of my favorites being a lengthy shot at a park where Carmen & a new guy that she met can be heard talking on a date long before we see their exact place in the frame - the shot felt like a painting - in a positive way.

I believe there is the potential for a significant commercial life - lots of DVD sales, cable, maybe theatrical - for Cookies, since the movie is a very interesting character driven drama with a unique protagonist - portrayed well - and the film deals with sex as work & sex as a commodity. Also, it is possible that many audience members will sympathize with the lead character & will even be able to relate to her since - specifics of her dilemma aside - she is attempting to secure a unique outcome from a difficult situation - something many of us are engaged in, sometimes on a daily basis.

For people who enjoy art/indie/foreign movies and are excited about the filmmaking revolution that has been possible due to the use of digital video, and for those who appreciate seeing the multi-ethnic nature of the real world being reflected in cinema, Cookies & Cream is a must see.

- Sujewa

3 comments:

1Way or Another said...

Sujewa,

I agree with you. The fact that the answers to your questions may not be there to find is a good conclusion for you to draw. And although it was designed to catch up to the Carmen character where we find her in her present life, I can see how it could be frustrating to some that we dont see those questions answered. There are a few clues as to some of these reasons, like why she is in porn in the first place, and where she might be headed, but that possibly may not be detectable in a first viewing - something that was not orchestrated on purpose, yet something I never personally felt I wanted to know about her. I appreciate your thoughts as well as concerns. They make a lot of sense.

- Princeton

The Sujewa said...

Congrats on finishing the film Princeton, good luck with distribution & fests.

- Sujewa

Sophie said...

This sounds great, am gonna get hold out of it for my weekly film night! Last week watched LIFELINES by Rob Margolies. Here is an accurate summary i pasted from the net:

LIfelines is an exoteric and edifying depiction of one culminating day in the lives of five members in a fruitless family. The Bernstein Family consisting of Ira and Nancy, Meghan, their daughter, and her two brothers, Michael and Spencer. They’d appear to be an ordinary, fortunate family, but under their roof, behind closed doors, secrets are kept with strict adherence. Exploring flawed characters, the story reflects the realistic experience of pausing long enough in your typical autopilot day to create the necessary time for buried truth to emerge. They are real people, and like all real people, they are imperfect.

Great stuff!

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