‘Fast Color’ and the Superhero In Need [Review]

‘Fast Color’ and the Superhero In Need

★★★

Since 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has released 23 feature films. The combined budget for these films hovers around $4.5 billion while the combined box office adds up to more than $22.5 billion. Audiences love these movies, and our view of a superhero has morphed in the process. We look for superheroes to have at least one of a variety of traits, including but not limited to super strength, teleportation, mind control, suits with super armor, a godly hammer, or even just an array of assassin skills. With each new film, our expectations for a superhero and their abilities raise 

Enter writer/director Julia Hart (Miss Stevens) and actor Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Motherless Brooklyn) and their film Fast Color. Hart’s movie focuses in on Ruth (Mbatha-Raw), a woman who has powers she cannot control, which cause earthquakes. Her abilities cause destruction, and we her on the run from the law and from scientists hoping to capture and study her. 

After a couple close calls, she decides to head home, finding her mother Bo (Lorraine Toussaint) and abandoned daughter Lila (Saniyya Sidney) living somewhat happily. Both also have these powers, and can see “the colors,” which Ruth hasn’t seen in years once she lost control of how to use her superhuman features. The women decide to help Ruth take back her life, her body, and her powers, as Ruth hopes to reconnect to her mother, her daughter, and herself in the process. The setup looks like a far cry from those Marvel movies we’ve come to know and love.

‘Fast Color’ and the Superhero In Need
source: Codeblack Films

The difference between Marvel and Fast Color is in the protagonists. In most superhero or at least superhuman films, those with the powers save someone or something. They are protectors, last lines of defense. In Hart’s film, the superhero needs saving. She asks for help, and she’s the destructive force in the universe. An oddly poetic story follows, which pushes the narrative that we all require saving from time to time, and that superhuman abilities don’t need to translate into saving the world. 

Mbatha-Raw gives more of herself as the film progresses, and the performance actually becomes much better after a few weeks of reflection. Fast Color is the first superhero movie, outside of Black Panther, that stuck itself in the corner of the mind, existing more as a thought-provoker than a one-time explosive experience. Hart’s film also becomes more beautiful as Ruth rediscovers her powers, and finally sees “the colors,” a worthy wait for the audience. Once she, and we in turn, see them, it all begins to have meaning on a deeper level and resonance beyond just a mother/daughter story.

Though it falters during a few scenes and the dialogue can be a bit shaky, Fast Color holds a weight in its hands, and changes how you think about the (de-glamorized) superhero as human instead of godly. It puts a face to a genre that usually is filled with masks and suits. It shows the pains and difficulties, instead of the heroics. Ruth’s gender and ethnicity only add to the nuance and importance of Fast Color, as you learn that she deserves screen time just as much as the Avengers, the Eternals, and any other group of people we assign admiration and value to as a society.

Fast Color and its hero have more than superhuman powers, they have drive and purpose, and intent to do good in the world. If more movies follow suit, a new superhero will be formed, one void of perfection and full of promise.

Why Jillian Bell and Michaela Watkins are the best comedic duo in film

Why Jillian Bell and Michaela Watkins are the best comedic duo in film

The most enjoyable double-feature of 2019 doesn’t feature any Martin Scorsese, Brad Pitt, or Adam Driver. These films likely won’t win any awards or even be nominated for any Oscars. These films trade mobsters and marriage for swords and salads. Sword of Trust followed by Brittany Runs a Marathon will bring you laughter, and four hours of pure joy.

These films star the top (and my favorite) comedic duo currently working in Hollywood: Jillian Bell and Michaela Watkins. In Sword of Trust, the duo joins Marc Maron for an exploration of conspiracy theorists and the Wild West of those who believe the South won the Civil War.

Bell and Watkins play a lesbian couple in possession of an old sword, one they are trying to pawn off for a large sum of cash. Maron plays the pawn shop owner, who is roped into the whole affair in pursuit of money himself. The whole film is absurd, and absolutely hilarious.

Bell and Watkins balance each other out as a couple in that film, with Bell being unknowing, a bit ditzy, with a confused look splattered onto her face. Watkins is the firmer of the two, doing the talking in high-pressure situations and taking control in steering conversations. They complement one another in every scene, and their banter-laced chemistry feels unrehearsed.

In Brittany Runs a Marathon, Bell fills the title role of couch-potato-turned-marathoner and Watkins plays her slightly older and motherly upstairs neighbor, a recent divorcee. Though the film is inherently less funny than Sword of Trust, it provides more inspiration and feelings of warmth, leaving you with a feeling that the world is a better place than it was two hours prior.

Again, Bell and Watkins act as opposites, though we find out they’re much more similar than we originally thought. Bell is carefree with a individualized resolve, while Watkins is bound to her children and her past, looking for friendship and support from those around her. Both actors continue to be funny, endearing, and understanding in each and every role they play, especially in these two films.

The key to the Bell-Watkins duo is in their conversations together. In every scene in which these women communicate, they speak like old friends who are catching up. They converse as though they’ve known one another for ages, yet could be meeting for the first time and enjoying one another’s company. They talk over each other in Sword yet listen intently in Brittany. They look to actually make each other laugh, and their genuine smiles warm up the screen.

Yes, they’re funny and their timing deserves applause, but the duo provides heartfelt moments in each film. The sincerity shines through and you’re left feeling happy that the duo exists at all. Though these films might not be the best films of the year, they certainly make for the most pleasant way you can spend four hours. These women are to thank.

Though both actors have been in Hollywood for quite a few years now, they are seeing more leading roles and deservedly so. Their established rapport shouldn’t be overlooked or understated, and if you see their names on a movie poster, you most likely won’t be disappointed with the film.

All of this might be speculation on my part, but from the looks of the video below, this friendship is lovely and we should finance any filmmaker who wants to put these two actors in a movie together.