Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, 2022.
Written and Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour.
Starring Jeon Jong-seo, Kate Hudson, Ed Skrein, Evan Whitten, Craig Robinson, Tiffany Black, Lauren Bowles, Serene Lee, Cory Roberts, Peggy Gou, Kyler Porche, Michael Carollo, Anthony Reynolds, Jennifer Vo, Altonio Jackson, Donna Duplantier, Rosha Washington, and Armando Leduc.
A woman with unusual powers escapes from a psychological asylum and tries to make it on her personal in New Orleans.
Par for the course with writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night and The Bad Batch), Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon lives and dies off a hypnotic wavelength that’s increasingly bizarre.
Take the opening sequence, which sees unnamed asylum affected person Jeon Jong-seo’s Mona Lisa Lee comparatively relaxed in her straitjacket, with Pawel Pogorzelski’s images casually zooming in as she gracefully tries to maneuver herself out of the restraints, all while the trancelike rating from Daniele Luppi picks up. Soon after, a nurse (Lauren Bowles) enters the padded cell to clip some toenails, succumbing to hypnosis and aiding Mona Lisa Lee’s escape.
If you’re wondering why Mona Lisa Lee didn’t do this years ago or demand solutions relating to her supernatural skills, then Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon is not for you, and that’s also a narrow-sighted engagement with films as an artwork kind. What issues is that she’s a free fish out of the water, experiencing most of what life has to supply for the first time, with all the nice and dangerous that comes with this seedy, neon-soaked underbelly of New Orleans.
Initial encounters contain a group offering up some sneakers and a heavily tattooed hoodlum who goes by the nickname Fuzz (an unrecognizable Ed Skrein) and comes across entitled to share a kiss with Mona Lisa Lee as a result of he bought her some cheese puffs (which appear to be her favourite snack) on the convenience retailer (one of Ana Lily Amirpour’s strengths as a filmmaker continues to be the random specificity of her characters inside the surreal worlds they inhabit).
None of these characters present signs of discomfort or worry at her wandering round in asylum attire, providing her a change of garments. And she has the higher hand each time someone upsets her, thanks to her hypnosis powers. Case in point, Craig Robinson’s police officer Harold (a terrific efficiency that blends his comedic touch with fright and curiosity) is mind-controlled into taking pictures himself within the leg when his pursuit brings him face-to-face with Mona Lisa Lee.
The night time then takes Mona Lisa Lee to a burger joint where she witnesses Kate Hudson’s erotic dancer Bonnie disrespected and bodily assaulted by a lady assuming the scantily clad off-duty patron was eye-flirting along with her boyfriend. After coming to the woman’s protection, Mona Lisa Lee is taken to the strip membership, the place Bonnie realizes she will be in a position to convince her new pal to brain-melt chauvinistic cheap-ass tippers into emptying their pockets. Screwing over the patriarchy is a noble trigger, however from there, Mona Lisa Lee turns into exploited by helping Bonnie in robbing strangers at ATMs in broad daylight, which only further puts officer Harold on the trail.
Perhaps it’s a commentary on how many Americans will, sadly, solid aside their racism after they have something to gain as a friend (not that Bonnie’s character is outwardly racist, however more in order that it’s exhausting to disregard the racial makeup of the dynamic). Bonnie can be a struggling single mom with a 10-year-old son (Evan Whitten) who privately confesses that his mom resents his existence and berates him for being the explanation she can’t absolutely take pleasure in life and achieve her goals. Nevertheless, he warns Mona Lisa Lee that she is being taken benefit of.
Considering these characters, particularly Bonnie, operate in moral shades of gray, Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon has the pleasant capability to elicit disappointment in some characters one minute and empathy for them a quantity of moments later. Such a thing is of course baked into a story where gender politics and the patriarchy are on full show (for all the errors Bonnie makes, she, and no woman on the planet, deserves some of what comes her way). A good chunk of the emotional core is also about Bonnie coming to the conclusion that she is a cruel mother and will stand to make a few life adjustments.
However, the longer this example is stretched out, the more it makes Mona Lisa Lee take a backseat in what is meant to be her story (doubly irritating considering Jeon Jong-seo’s commanding display screen presence). It’s also unlike Ana Lily Amirpour to settle into such simple storytelling, which sucks away from the arrestingly bizarre vibes in the early going. Her character arc boils right down to studying the fundamentals about life and evading authorities.
At a certain point, Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon stops having enjoyable with its premise, meanders, and then fizzles out (even the hypnosis facet fades away). The blunt themes are worthy dialog starters, and the film remains to be unusual enough to advocate, but by the tip, all one of the best components might as well be sacrificed to the blood moon itself.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He can be the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new evaluations, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or e-mail me at [email protected]