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L’Animale (A Movie Review)

Updated: Sep 27, 2023


L’ANIMALE (2018)

Starring Sophie Stockinger, Kathrin Resetarits, Dominik Warta, Julia Franz Richter, Jack Hofer, Stefan Pohl, Dominic Marcus Singer, Simon Morzé, Eva Herzig, David Oberkogler, Martina Spitzer, Lisa C. Nemec, Johanna Orsini-Rosenberg, Gisela Salcher and Alexandra Schmidt.

Screenplay by Katharina Mueckstein.

Directed by Katharina Mueckstein.

Distributed by La Banda Film Production. 96 minutes. Not Rated.

Screened at the 2018 Philadelphia Film Festival.

The coming of age movie is pretty much a standard all over the world. This Austrian film is better than some, worse than others, but it does not necessarily stick out in the crowded field.

Mati (played by Sophie Stockinger) is the main character, but frankly she is not the most likable character, not by a long shot. She is a teenaged tomboy, who hangs out with a bunch of asshole boys doing motocross and extreme sports. She’s basically a nice girl, but when she gets in with the guys she turns into a total bully and bitch. In fact, one of the earliest impressions we get of Mati is when she gives in to peer pressure and spits in the face of a shy girl who her friends have surrounded threateningly in an underpass.

That shy girl is Carla (Julia Franz Richter), a cute-but-quiet teen outcast whose parents have abandoned her, so she is living alone, juggling school and work just to survive. The only thing she truly seems to care about is her cat. When it is injured, she takes it to the local vet, not knowing that the vet is Mati’s mother, and that Mati is working part time there (mostly against her will).

The two outcasts bond over their love of animals, and quickly a friendship is born – though one that Mati hides from most people. There is also a strong hint of mutual attraction. Therefore, it is only a matter of time before the guys she hangs out with will cross paths with her new relationship.

At more than one point, Carla asks Mati how she can stay friends with those guys – and the audience can’t help but whole-heartedly agree. The guys are obviously massive jerks, and the fact that Mati keeps going back to them makes her a lot harder to like as a character.

In the meantime, the film also spends a lot of time on Mati’s parents. Her control-freak mother is trying hard to ignore the fact that the father is experimenting with gay hook-up sites online. And dad becomes a bit overwhelmed when he decides to go all out and try fitting in at a gay party at a local lake house.

Towards the end of the movie there is the brief tip of the cap to Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, in which all of the characters are shown morosely singing along to a sad background song as they deal with their problems in life. However, L’Animale has two problems with this interesting, but essentially not totally successful tribute. First of all, the song used here is nowhere near as good or affecting as Aimee Mann’s “Wise Up,” the song that was written for that particular scene in Magnolia. The second is more basic – is there really anyone out there who will recognize what L’Animale is doing? Magnolia is almost 20 years old, and it is not exactly a beloved, classic film. What’s the point in imitating something when most people do not remember its original incarnation? It comes off as a bit precious in a movie which had previously been attempting to be gritty and realistic.

In many ways it does succeed in that gritty, realistic mode, and that is when L’Animale is best. Sophie Stockinger, Julia Franz Richter and Kathrin Resetarits as Mati’s uptight mother are particularly good in their roles. L’Animale is by no means a great film, but it does have much to offer.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2018 All rights reserved. Posted: October 29, 2018.


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