★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
A gorgeous, brain scrambling, female-led debut brought you to by cryptocurrency.
Directed by Mitzi Peirone.
Is this an hallucination or am I dreaming that I’m awake? Maybe those pills weren’t what I thought they were? What’s going on? If these are the kinds of questions you enjoy asking, Braid is the movie for you.
Brand new writer/director Mitzi Peirone comes out of the gate in a big way. Especially if you enjoy beautifully shot, but thoroughly disorienting films. Braid is definitely not for everyone. Peirone messes with the timeline and commingles dream states with reality to create a glorious mess that’s almost more of an experience than it is a narrative.
There is a story here. It’s just difficult to keep track of sometimes. Braid is one of those films that you watch with a couple friends and then sit back and try to figure out which parts actually happened and which were just make believe.
In its own way, the story follows Tilda [Sarah Hay; TV’s Flesh and Bone (2015)] and Petula [Imogen Waterhouse; Nocturnal Animals (2016)], two fugitive drug dealers who also happen to be on the hook to their boss to the tune of about $80,000 in confiscated drugs. Seeing as how they don’t have that kind of cash just lying around, the young women decide to pay a visit to their wealthy childhood friend, Daphne.
Daphne [Madeline Brewer; Cam (2018)] lives alone in a sprawling mansion — wonderfully portrayed by New York’s historic Alder Manor — which she inherited from her grandparents. Daphne was never quite the same after she fell out of the treehouse as a kid. She continues to live within the world of pretend that used to entertain the young women when they played together as children.
In order to get access to the house and have a chance at stealing what they can from rich Daphne’s safe, Tilda and Petula must immerse themselves once more in that fantasy world and play The Game with kooky ol’ Daphne. No matter how strange, uncomfortable, or violent it might get.
Not only is Braid a different kind of movie, but it had a very different kind of financing. This is the first full-length feature film that was funded using cryptocurrency. Specifically, the filmmakers set out to raise $1.25 million by selling “BRAID Tokens” using the Ethereum digital currency and a form of “equity crowdfunding”. Think Kickstarter, but instead of just getting a t-shirt for your donation, you get a cut of the film’s profits. It’s too early to tell if this was a good idea for the folks who invested in Braid, but apparently some people thought the plan had merit. The filmmakers hit their funding goal in less than two weeks.
Clever financing aside, Braid is an example of style over substance, but in the best way possible. Both Todd Banhazl’s cinematography and Amit Gajwani’s costume design, injected with some post-production magic, give segments of the film a drug-fueled or dreamlike quality. And sometimes both! The tension of playing The Game in all of its unpredictable glory added to the girls’ hunt for cash and their ever-present fugitive status keeps the viewer engaged and committed to the experience.
Madeline Brewer owns the show with her portrayal of mostly bonkers Daphne and Imogen Waterhouse’s Petula commands attention with her confidence and confusion whenever Daphne isn’t around to steal the scene. It’s not just the audience getting lost in the mixed-up timeline. The characters are right there with us and all three of the leads do an excellent job of it.
As I mentioned earlier, Braid isn’t for everyone. But if you’re a sucker for enchanting visuals and a brain-contorting storyline, I encourage you to sit down, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.
Braid is available for steaming from Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, and VUDU.