Starring Krisha Fairchild, Bill Wise, Bryan Casserly, Olivia Grace Applegate
Austin’s mega popular South By Southwest film festival is known for a lot of things, but their top prize winner each year typically isn’t one of their strengths. It’s been a year since Krisha won both the audience award and the jury prize. Unlike films from Sundance or Toronto who go on to be best picture nominees at the Academy Awards, Krisha has already nearly been forgotten. It comes to us from a first time filmmaker Trey Edward Shults from Houston, Texas, who is under the age of 30. He uses mostly non-actors along with unsteady, low quality cameras and poorly captured sound quality. It won’t take the informed viewer long to realize this is a poor man’s rendition of the Oscar nominated film and Tony award winning play August: Osage County.
Estranged from her family for some-time due to drug and alcohol abuse, Krisha Fairchild returns home for Thanksgiving. She is welcomed with open arms from everyone but her grown son (Casserly). Krisha isn’t forthcoming about her recovery with the family, but intends to show her stability by taking care of the large family turkey before their meal. She keeps her medication upstairs in a lock box, but each passing day the hostility and pressure from the extended family push her closer to abusing the contents of that box. The resistance from her son only remind her of past mistakes and the forgiveness the family continues to deny.
There are so many comparable elements between Krisha and August Osage County that it’s impossible to abstain from comparisons, despite one being a budgeted studio film with the greatest living talent and the other a first time endeavor.
Everything just feels a little too amateur from Shults, never more-so than the characters orange faces when they are standing in the kitchen talking. Natural light is used on the interior of the house which often creates distracting skin tone effects for the audience. The sound is no better or worse than a home video being shot in a two story house with open ceilings, as it echo’s around a minimally decorated property that feels as rented as it looks. The erratic demeanor of the film, both the editing style and the electronic musical score, are certainly effective in raising the audience awareness of Krisha’s anxiety which is at first internalized.
From the moment we see Krisha touch the turkey, everything but a flashing sign, points to the downward spiral that will ensue. It’s a bit on the nose, as are all the minimal plot devices. Typically a film like this, with all its prosaic elements, will be saved by strong performances, sadly that isn’t the case here. There are so many comparable elements between Krisha and August Osage County that it’s impossible to abstain from comparisons, despite one being a budgeted studio film with the greatest living talent and the other a first time endeavor. Tracy Letts “August” felt like real people because they were, and even with so many characters, director John Welles gave them all a voice and background. In Krisha it feels like a bunch of random people thrown into a house just for arguments sake and no background history on the various characters.
The unpolished nature of the film and it’s comparisons to similar stories dilute it’s effect.