Every year, SXSW pays homage to its home state with programs of Texas shorts and a Texas-only “Lone Star” Award. But even outside of its designated categories, Texas has a way of seeping into the festival’s offerings. Be it via actors, subject matter, or accents, each of the four films below has a Texas flair.
Bodies Bodies Bodies
Just after the premiere of A24’s paranoia-infused thriller Bodies Bodies Bodies, director Halina Reijn described the film as “Lord of the Flies meets Mean Girls.” It’s an apt description for a movie that packs in comedy, satire, and horror all before nailing a satisfying twist in its final minutes. Set at a hurricane party in an isolated mansion, the film follows a group of old friends as a game of “bodies bodies bodies” (similar to Mafia or Werewolf) devolves into a terrifying search for an actual killer. David (Pete Davidson) is the party’s host, whose temper is a point of tension between him and his girlfriend, Emma (Chase Sui Wonders); Alice (Rachel Sennott) is a podcast host who has brought her noticeably older Tinder date, Greg (Houston-raised Lee Pace), to the gathering; and Jordan (Myha’la Herrold) seems to have unsettled business with Sophie (Amandla Stenberg), who’s brought her new girlfriend, Bee (Maria Bakalova), along for the ride. While the scares in the film work well, the real thrill comes from watching the friends air out ancient grievances as everyone eventually becomes a suspect. Expertly cast, Bodies pokes fun at terminally online young millennials and Gen Zers, with Sennott in particular pulling focus in a hilarious, star-making performance. Keep your eyes peeled for the film’s wide release, which has yet to be announced.
—Cat Cardenas, associate editor
Diamond Hands: The Legend of WallStreetBets
Grapevine-based GameStop became the improbable focus of the financial world last spring after a horde of social media users—equipped with an understanding of the stock market as legalized gambling—figured out a way to stack the deck in their own favor. Diamond Hands is the story of how they did it and why, told with stylish verve. The filmmakers deploy sit-down interviews with the Reddit users and YouTubers who helped pump the sinking stock of a company on the verge of obsolescence up to nearly $500 a share. Diamond Hands, which comes to MSNBC on April 10, owes as much to the Adam McKay feature The Big Short as it does any stuffy documentary. For example, when the writer of a call-to-arms Reddit post refuses to read it (“too cringey,” he says), the filmmakers bring in his brother, a professional actor, to perform it in costume. The story of what really happened with GameStop stock gets complicated: the run on the stock petered out not because the Reddit crowd misunderstood market forces, but because the day-trading app Robinhood stopped allowing users to buy the stock, crashing the price. Diamond Hands lays its clear sympathies with the social media insurgents, who are only part of the story. (Other parts include, but aren’t limited to, hedge funds that helped drive the price pump and nonparticipants who nonetheless had to live in the wildly financially volatile world of meme stocks.) Still, Diamond Hands is a fun, breezy, compelling look at the characters who drove GameStop into the center of the financial universe for a brief time, and a tease of what they’re doing next. Spoiler: it’s crypto.
—Dan Solomon, senior editor
The “person with addiction issues returns to their small town” character study is well-worn indie film territory, and for much of To Leslie, it looks like the movie is going to run neatly along that track. Leslie, played by British actress Andrea Risenborough, is a former Texas lottery winner who claimed a $190,000 jackpot that she quickly drank away; six years later, she’s spending her rent money on booze and, eventually, ending up on the street. When she runs out of places to go, she lands back in the same small West Texas town from which she escaped with her six-figure winnings—having alienated most of the city on her way out. What separates To Leslie from, say, last year’s Red Rocket is the deeply empathetic on-screen connection between Risenborough and costar Marc Maron, who puts on a not-quite-there Texas accent as he delivers a performance full of quiet compassion that belies his loudmouthed, neurotic comedy persona. Plans for a wider release have yet to be announced.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
With Nick Cage starring as Nick Cage, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is just as insane as you’d expect it to be. Both a buddy comedy and a meta action movie, the film (which comes to theaters April 22) follows a fictionalized version of Cage who’s struggling to make his next big career move. Desperate to pay off his mounting debts and focus on his strained relationship with his teenage daughter (Lily Mo Sheen), he accepts a $1 million offer to attend the birthday party of a superfan (San Antonio–raised Pedro Pascal), unwittingly tangling them both in the dealings of a dangerous international drug operation. It’s a blast to watch Cage and Pascal’s bromance form so organically, though Pascal is such a natural comedic talent that he often steals the show. And with tons of references to Cage’s past work (yes, even The Wicker Man), it’s clear that Cage is the perfect actor to pull off a role that walks a tightrope between self-indulgent and self-aware.