Debra Eisenstadt’s Imaginary Order is now coming out as Blush. And it seems similar to last year’s crop of Sundance dramas in its focus on family breakdowns. Where it differs is in its methods. Most dramas from that festival have a warmth while the coldness here adds to its whipping alienation. Fifteen minutes in and it feels like it is showing day 3 of the life of a PTA housewife, Cathy (Wendi McLendon-Covey). Or week 3 since PTA meetings don’t happen every day. Time passes by more quickly here to show how crafty Cathy is starting to be late for her PTA meetings.
Cat-sitting for her sister Gail (Catherine Curtin) is Cathy’s temporary escape from her husband (Steve Little). That chore gets her to eventually befriend Gail’s neighbors. And here it shows Blush and what makes it part of the spiraling housewife sub genre. She eventually sleeps with the man in that neighboring family, a one-time tryst that that family’s son Xander (Max Burkholder) witnesses. Xander then tries to blackmail Cathy, demanding an iPad for his silence. This drama is then trying to sell something about Cathy and young Xander. They belong to different generations but somehow have a much equal power dynamic. Other Sundance entries of its year, like Luce, has a premise similar to this, and it’s selling that slightly competently here.
Cathy is a receptacle of bad things here but this drama, in showing her passivity, also exposes her intelligence. Xander ingratiates himself further into her life. There’s a scene where he reads a poem to her that he claims he which she quickly realizes is an e.e. cummings poem. It’s nice to see such erudite characters. But passivity is such an uncharacteristic quality in American dramas so much so that they’re infuriatingly bad at depicting it. That quality instead comes off as sadism. The more this drama continues, the more it seems like it should have ended earlier. Cathy must have realized truly just how much baggage Xander’s family has. It also doesn’t show why Cathy still wants to be around these people.
McLendon-Covey is great here, showing power, expressing decades in the life of a character she can only play for less than a hundred minutes. Too bad that the actors around her don’t show the dimension that she’s willing to give her sad character. The drama itself seems like if an American wrote Parasite but with poor characters who deserve a punch in the face. But, spoiler alert, those punch-able characters don’t get their comeuppance. I also just want teenage characters who are neither annoying nor trying to hide the fact that they’re 21 year olds with gym memberships. Audiences watching this probably haven’t seen their neighbors in weeks. And the one of the good things I can say about it is that it will make people not miss their neighbors.
Blush is available on iTunes.
- Rated: NR
- Genre: Drama, Independent
- Release Date: 4/10/2020
- Directed by: Debra Eisenstadt
- Starring: Catherine Curtin, Max Burkholder, Steve Little, Wendi McLendon-Covey
- Produced by: Cosmos Kiindarius, Debra Eisenstadt, Peter Wong, Timur Bekbosunov
- Written by: Debra Eisenstadt
- Studio: Gravitas Ventures