The Movie Waffler Tribeca Film Festival 2021 Review - LOVE SPREADS | The Movie Waffler

Tribeca Film Festival 2021 Review - LOVE SPREADS

love spreads review
A female rock group struggles to record their second album.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Jamie Adams

Starring: Alia Shawkat, Nick Helm, Eiza Gonzales, Chanel Cresswell, Tara Lee, Dolly Wells

love spreads poster

In Alex Ross-Perry's Her Smell, Elisabeth Moss played Becky Something, a monstrous embodiment of a narcissistic Gen-X rocker, all drug-fuelled venom and bile, attacking anyone who questioned her methods. With Love Spreads, which takes its title from a Stone Roses track, British writer/director Jamie Adams gives us something of a millennial cousin of Moss's diva.

Played by Alia Shawkat, Kelly is the frontwoman of female rock group Glass Heart. She's just as narcissistic as Moss's Becky, but this is 2021, so there are no tantrums thrown, no hotel rooms trashed and no drugs binged. Instead the sober and manipulative Kelly goes behind people's backs when she wishes to stab them.

love spreads review

Following a successful debut album, Glass Heart are riding high. Their put-upon manager Mark (Nick Helm) has booked them into a studio in the Welsh countryside for five weeks. It's purportedly the studio where Queen recorded Bohemian Rhapsody and Oasis recorded Wonderwall, so he's hoping the girls will find some inspiration for that tricky second album.

Struck by writer's block, Kelly spends most of the allotted time in bed. As the unproductive days turn into weeks, Mark finds himself under increasing pressure from the band's label to get something recorded, while Kelly's relationship with her bandmates – the chilled out Jess (Chanel Cresswell) and Irish glamourpuss Alice (Tara Lee) – becomes increasingly fraught.

love spreads review

Just as it takes a prolonged period for Glass Heart to figure out the direction of their sophomore album, so too does it take a while for Love Spreads to find its feet. It spends much of its first half wrestling with its tone, falling somewhere between the realistic drama of Her Smell and the parody of This is Spinal Tap. The latter is acknowledged by a cutaway shot to a newspaper headline that reads "Sexy, not sexist," so Adams clearly knows what he's doing here and is aware of the lineage his muso movie fits into. Office-era cringe comedy is a major influence too, particularly in the figure of Mark, with Helm delivering a performance that comes off as a more affable version of the type of character Ricky Gervais might portray.

That word "affable" ultimately sums up Adams' film. Once you get to grips with its odd tone and its relaxed vibe it surprisingly becomes a bit of a charmer, a nicecore cousin of Her Smell. Aside from Kelly, the characters are easy to warm to, particularly Mark, a refreshing alternative to the stereotype of the egomaniacal band manager. When his wife (Dolly Wells) pops by for a surprise visit we're given one of the most endearing portrayals of a long-term relationship I've seen on screen for quite some time.

love spreads review

In a career best turn, Eiza Gonzáles enters the picture halfway through to replace a departed band member. A ray of California sunshine cutting through the Welsh mist, her guitarist Patricia instantly brightens everyone up with her positivity. It's the sort of character you might expect to be deployed as an easy target for satire, particularly in a British movie, but like the sleeper TV hit Ted Lasso, Love Spreads takes a figure ripe for sarcastic mockery and instead makes them someone whose attitude and outlook we become envious of. Any cynicism we might have had early on in this music melodrama has been entirely eroded by the time we leave the studio and bid farewell to its muso protagonists.

Love Spreads premiered at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival and will be released in US cinemas and on VOD June 18th. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.

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