For those considering a deep retreat from oppressive holiday cheer, there's Zach Clark's brittle indie confection "White Reindeer." Anna Margaret Hollyman stars as Suzanne, a chipper real estate agent and devoted wife to her weatherman husband. Suzanne is in good spirits with her beloved yuletide season in full swing, until her spouse's sudden murder — with nearly a month to go before Christmas — sends her into a grief-stricken limbo.
As Suzanne explores unearthed secrets about her husband, she seeks out and befriends a single-mom stripper (Laura Lemar-Goldsborough), overshops online, steals in-store, becomes sexually adventurous and partakes of controlled substances. (Plus, in a choice scene of only-within-families bad timing, she learns her parents are separating.)
Writer-director Clark's commitment to a deadpan vibe of crisp comic kink amid eccentric, left-turn sorrow can sometimes feel condescending. But within this not-so-jolly trip into the detailed recesses of simmering suburban emptiness, Hollyman takes this woman's barely controlled dignity on a quietly brave, revealing ride. She's sturdy enough conveying Suzanne's halting journey that by the end — once you've exhausted your last titter at a white bread life burnt at the edges — there's genuinely unforced and unexpected emotion to Suzanne's post-tragedy peace.
"White Reindeer." MPAA rating: Not rated. Running time: 1 hour, 22 minutes. At the Downtown Independent.
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