Kelly & Cal
Starring Juliette Lewis, Jonny Weston, Josh Hopkins, Cybill Shepherd
Juliette Lewis (August: Osage County) sure is working hard on a comeback. Two of the best films debuting at the SXSW film festival starred Lewis. Her performance in Kelly & Cal would win my best actress award for this years’ collection of movies. Lewis has been typecast for some time now as being an airhead, but in two projects takes control of her career here with a layered performance that equates to what Jennifer Aniston did with The Good Girl. Kelly & Cal is written by Amy Lowe Starbin (first time screenwriter), who writes these characters personally, as from experience. Also directed by a female (Jen McGowan), everything here feels authentic. Lewis and Jonny Weston (Chasing Mavericks) create a really special bond and the forbidden sexual tension between them filled the entire auditorium.
Struggling with depression and no self-esteem following her first pregnancy, Kelly (Lewis) hints to her hard working husband Josh (Hopkins) that she is ready for sex again. Her hints are ignored, but when a high school senior next door in their new neighborhood shows interest in Kelly she befriends him. It begins as a way to get the baby to stop crying by pushing him around in a stroller, but each time she ends up at Cal’s house, where he lives in the garage due to his injury that has left his legs paralyzed and motor functions limited. The two smoke and drink as he makes her feel attractive again while she provides him the attention no one else his age wants to give.
Lewis and Weston create a really special bond.
“You can’t define yourself by the things you’ve lost,” Kelly tells Cal. There is a lot of self-pity being thrown around in the film, and for anyone dealing with similar issues or circumstance; I think this beautiful script could be a real cathartic process. Throughout the entire film the audience is left in suspense of whether these two will actually give in to their impulses. Both are immature in their own way and Kelly struggles to gain the higher ground. Her empathy for Cal gets the better of her each time they hang out in his garage apartment; she understands very quickly that she has become his rock to lean on.
We watch as these two people have such an impact on each other that it begins to affect their lives outside their friendship, and it becomes destructive. “You paint a picture of what you want to see, and the reality never measures up,” Cal tells Kelly. McGowan and Starbin never push the relationship too far, but allow the story to develop, and the characters including Shepherd and Hopkins, who are great supporting players in this, to discuss the behaviors and meanings of Kelly’s actions. The script is filled with beautifully human moments, the right level of comedy and a whole lot of self exploration.
Juliette Lewis gives one of, if not her best performance.