The Movie Waffler Raindance 2023 Review - PARACHUTE | The Movie Waffler

Raindance 2023 Review - PARACHUTE

Parachute review
A young man and woman's relationship is derailed by the latter's body dysmorphia.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Brittany Snow

Starring: Courtney Eaton, Thomas Mann, Joel McHale, Gina Rodriguez, Dave Bautista, Scott Mescudi, Francesca Reale

Parachute poster

Working alongside co-writer Becca Gleason, actress Brittany Snow makes a remarkably fluid transition to writing and directing with her feature debut Parachute. With Snow best known for comic roles, you might expect Parachute to play its will-they-won't-they romance for laughs, but while there are moments of black humour, this is largely a straight drama, one with protagonists who feel real in their messiness.

Parachute review

Set over a couple of years, the film begins with twentysomething Riley (Courtney Eaton) getting out of a rehab clinic where she was treated for an eating disorder caused by body dysmorphia. Given access to her phone for the first time in months, Riley immediately sets about torturing herself by scrolling through Instagram images of women with "perfect" bodies.

As part of her recovery plan, Riley must engage with a therapist (Gina Rodriguez) and avoid entering any romantic relationships for at least a year. Riley bluffs her way through therapy sessions, but the second commitment isn't so easy when she meets Ethan (Thomas Mann) at a bar on the first night of her release. Taking Ethan back to the enviable New York loft bequeathed by her absent and seemingly uncaring mother, Riley immediately panics at the thought of Ethan seeing her naked body and all her perceived imperfections. Ethan says he's fine with just hanging out and commits himself to the long game of remaining platonic friends with Riley until she's ready to enter a relationship.

Parachute review

Of course, there are bumps along the way. Riley's rehab seems to have had no positive effects. She still obsesses over her body, tugging at every fold of flaccid flesh she can find and continually compares herself to photoshopped images of skinny models. She constantly raids fridges for food she knows will make her feel worse about herself once the plate has been cleaned. Ethan does his best to help, but while he means well his presence only enables Riley's worst tendencies. He's the parachute of the title, allowing Riley to take dangerous leaps because she knows he'll be there to soften her landing. Ethan has a similar relationship with his alcoholic father (Joel McHale), always there to drive him home when his benders get too out of hand.

What makes Parachute stand out from similar narratives is that rather than posing the question of whether two people who clearly love one another will get together, it asks whether they should get together. As the narrative progresses and Ethan's support leads Riley to become increasingly narcissistic, even rubbing poor Ethan's face in it by dating an absolute douchebag work colleague, we're forced to accept that Ethan needs to cut the strings, that Riley can only move forward if she experiences a harsh landing. But Riley and Ethan are so adorable together that it's a struggle for the audience to come around to accepting this notion. The film puts us in the position of a kid forced to put their first pet to sleep.

Parachute review

This is down to how relatable Eaton and Mann make their characters of Riley and Ethan. Despite being a former model who looks like a young Meg Tilly, Eaton never comes off as a fraud, fully convincing as someone who is objectively very attractive by any metric but just can't see it herself. Ironically it's her very attractiveness that allows her to indulge in narcissism, as someone less appealing would be called out immediately for their behaviour. Mann is an actor who has never stood out for me before, but there's something about his everyman drabness that makes him the ideal choice for this role. Ethan pleads with Riley to see the beautiful woman he sees, but the sad truth is that he probably wouldn't stand a chance of dating Riley if she didn't have such low self-esteem.

Riley and Ethan's relationship is so messy and chaotic that even by the end of the film we're still not sure if they should be together. What is clear is that we want them to be together in an ideal world. They might be messy but they're both victims of circumstance and chemistry; but to love one another they'll both need to learn to love themselves.

 screens at Raindance 2023 on November 3rd.

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