Critics' Pick

Always Shine (NR)

Suspense/Thriller 85 min. November 25, 2016
By April Wolfe
Sophia Takal's psychological thriller about the implosion of two women — the naughty one and the nice one, each of whom wishes desperately she could be the other — is a powerful statement on the very industry that produced it. Beth (Caitlin FitzGerald) is perfect and prim, an actress who tells the men with power over her that she'll do anything for a part. Beth's polar opposite and best frenemy is another actress, Anna (Mackenzie Davis), who is furious and accusatory rather than compliant -- she's also struggling, while Beth is raking in money from beer commercials. Resentment smolders deep in Anna, as she smears layers of red lipstick on her lips like armor and picks up Beth for a getaway weekend in a secluded Big Sur house -- with no cell service.

In this striking, picturesque locale, where they're surrounded by lush greenery, hilly terrain and a fog that just keeps rolling in, the two are cut off from the world, pushing each other's buttons. By the time Anna, with utter hatred shooting from her eyes, asks Beth, "Do you ever feel like a whore?" for taking off her clothes in so many movies, the competition has stumbled right off the road of sanity. FitzGerald's and Davis' performances are so on-point, so tense, I could feel a tightening in my stomach all the way through.
Sophia Takal Mackenzie Davis, Caitlin FitzGerald, Lawrence Michael Levine, Alexander Koch, Jane Adams, Khan Baykal, Colleen Camp Lawrence Michael Levine Oscilloscope

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