‘Braid’ Twists Itself Into A Bizarre Knot Served On A Beautiful Porcelain Plait [Review]
What is a film but an elaborate means of pretend? Each person has their role, each set poised to perfection, each story mapped out, all pulled together in an interlacing plait of make believe. A healthy game of house is a natural part of a child’s play, but becomes a more sinister hobby when the child carries that activity forward into adulthood, without the lights and cameras of a soundstage to guide them. Mitzi Peirone makes her full directorial debut by applying the rules of house to the screen with her luxuriously dangerous feminine thriller, Braid.
Braid follows two young women, Petula and Tilda, on the lam after their narcotics sales are busted by authorities. With nowhere to hide but the isolated estate of their childhood friend, Daphne, the two hatch a plan to lay low inside and steal her monetary inheritance hidden within the confines of the mansion. However, their sanctuary comes with a dark, twisted cost: Daphne, left mentally unstable, lonely, and barren, forces her visitors to partake in a vicious game of pretend. In the role of Mother, she conducts Tilda as her Daughter and Petula as the Doctor on house call in an intensely perverse, violent act complete with three rules: 1. Everyone must play, 2. No outsiders allowed, and 3. Nobody leaves. Braid weaves an intricate structure of three strong, key factors: acting, setting, and perspective. It draws a pleasantly poisonous state of mind complete with decadent visuals, an intriguing vibe, and an ultimate end left to interpretation by the most important player of all: the viewer.
Their performances seamlessly weave the scenes of this story in and around one another, elevating each role with visual gusto and allure.
Young actresses in horror can often times be typecast or completely forgotten by the time the credits roll. It takes an enigmatic amount of charm and talent to be recognized outright. Imogen Waterhouse (Nocturnal Animals) and Sarah Hay (Flesh and Bone), exhibiting the most attractive traits of delicate femininity and taut grit, guide viewers on this whimsical journey through the complex psyche of deranged mentality. Waterhouse wears the suspenders as leader through the whacky plan of Braid, fearlessly taking the lead while keeping her sharp cool intact. Hay’s doe eyed demeanor crossed with her villainess siding was both appealing and terrifying. We never knew what to expect from her, be it a spoon tapping baby or bloodthirsty surgeon. Their performances seamlessly weave the scenes of this story in and around one another, elevating each role with visual gusto and allure.
The real spotlight shines brightly on Madeline Brewer (Cam) as she conducts this weird, pretend sideshow with motherly gleam, pulsing vulnerability, and sophisticated bite. Brewer is properly electric, enamoring, and disturbing. While I wished for some clarity in strands of this story, I loved the way she gracefully tiptoed the line of invoking sympathy and disgust from the viewer. It would be troubling to wonder why Petula and Tilda return time and time again for torment and humiliation, but the push and pull that comes from Brewer’s troublesome character, Daphne, speaks for itself. Her guiltily dependent state of mind not only drives the plot of Braid, but wraps tightly around the ensemble in a beautifully adorned noose on the tipping point of hanging the two who willingly placed their heads inside.
Peirone has certainly expressed her visionary input as the queen of make believe. She assuredly conducts her players and sets with heart and delicious instability, traits we’ll be sure to call on for decades to come.
As far as the setting and every bit of detail of attention paid to it, I could tie you to the chair and go on a structured binge explaining what I love about each frame of Braid. Everything about the way it looked appealed to my eye personally. Drawing in the essence of Sophia Coppola and some interesting parallels to Spring Breakers, the best parallels I would say, it had a unique hyper-feminine vibe. It truly channeled an adult game of playing pretend. The vintage, victorian and 50’s style set pieces and clothing give it an age of ambiguous purity. The lovely, overtly lush setting of the mansion really folded well with the rebellious break of adolescence these characters bring together.
Amid the gorgeous set pieces and visual design, this incredible mansion hosts a spooky, isolating tone. In a way, the environment itself has consumed the girls. It provides a safe haven of granduer for this motley group of childhood friends, while simultaneously serving as a tool for Braid’s depth, diversity, and movement for viewers. Contrasting the atmospheres of which the girls reside was a smart choice to kick off the aesthetic of Braid. Petula and Tilda live in an edgy, dangerous, saturated, trashy environment. Daphne lives harmoniously in her innocent, soft, childish, pure, detailed, and refined abode. As the two environments meet and clash, confining the two atmospheres to the mansion for a majority of the film, it begs viewers to wonder: Who’s lifestyle is more unorthodox? Whose is more safe?
Braid tried too hard to take a step outside of itself into the convoluted interpretation of the insane, but this wrong turn twisted the plot into a messy knot that later fell loose, ruining the definition of a perfectly wrapped plait.
Providing a lasting veil of mystery from the beginning of a film to the end is a major feat, especially when that mystery intensifies come the last act. Braid indulges viewers by toying with space, angles, color, pacing, and even time. While it takes place in the restricted solitude of Daphne’s mansion, Peirone broadens each scene’s scope with a playful bag of tricks that allows the viewer to step inside a layered environment inhabited by diverse, yet uniform individuals. Tilted, upside down angles flex Peirone’s maturity, while her bend of neon and pastel coloring stands appropriately coy and fun. Each frame is saturated in style and care. Braid intoxicates viewers with a multitude of flashbacks, hallucinations, and drug induced trips. As an artist, Peirone lovingly flourishes.
The lovely, overtly lush setting of the mansion really folded well with the rebellious break of adolescence these characters bring together.
Unfortunately, the ribbon wrapping the strands of Braid together is made of silk. While these factors remain consistent throughout the film and wrap tightly around each other nicely to form something visually appealing, the ends need to be tied. Mechanics in the plot and script don’t work with intent, but this could give Braid a loosely pretentious misconception. The factors here are strong enough to hold the structure together well, but many pieces seem to be missing or a little too nonsensical towards the end. Exposition is sometimes forced, with even some situations a little too convenient even as the story becomes unhinged. Braid tried too hard to take a step outside of itself into the convoluted interpretation of the insane, but this wrong turn twisted the plot into a messy knot that later fell loose, ruining the definition of a perfectly wrapped plait. Peirone sets up a beautiful dollhouse, but her playtime runs a bit too long to the point of outlandish application and an ill-defined break with reality.
I would have liked more definition around the final act, but respect the way Braid deliciously unravels as the exquisite fun house turns into a dark mad house. That finishing ribbon looks delightful, but does not hold up well enough for practical film functionality. Following a second watch, I was able to grasp more of the coherent, real parts of it and appreciated the insanity present as each scene topples the one that came before it. One long musical scene in particular grabbed me, the feeling and tone resonating well with me unlike it did before. I enjoyed the bizarre, ultra feminine vibe of Braid. It stands alone as a captivating, adult version of playing pretend, the likes we’ve never seen before. It sets up the rules and then does everything it can to break them. Peirone has certainly expressed her visionary input as the queen of make believe. She assuredly conducts her players and sets with heart and delicious instability, traits we’ll be sure to call on for decades to come.
‘Braid’ Twists Itself Into A Bizarre Knot Served On A Beautiful Porcelain Plait [Review]
Braid is a taut, coy dive into the mind and atmosphere of a mentally insane young woman. Combined with the emotional dependencies she has on her friends, and the ones they reluctantly have on her, this story weaves a pretty, surreal, and morbid plait of strong necessary film structures. It may form a bizarre knot in the third act, but one justified with the expressively unique art and perspective of debut director, Mitzi Peirone.