Film Festival Movie Review

Film Review: BEAUTY MARK: A Powerful Story Bolstered By Strong Performances [LA Film Festival 2017]

Auden Thornton Beauty Mark

Beauty Mark Review

Beauty Mark (2017) Film Review from the 23rd Annual Los Angeles Film Festival, a movie directed by Harris Doran, starring Auden Thornton, Laura Bell Bundy, Catherine Curtin, Jeff Kober, Deirdre Lovejoy, Madison Iseman, Paten Hughes, Ben Curtis, Wynn Reichert, Jon Arthur, Timothy Morton, Bridget Berger, Radney Foster, Kristina L. Ives, and DonShea Stringer

Just after Harris Doran’s Beauty Mark ends and the credits are about to roll, white text tells us that a shocking amount of women are sexually assaulted every year yet no one wants to talk about it. It’s an audacious claim to make, but the indie drama boldly stands by it in its portrayal of a desperate single mother who realizes the only person who might be able to help her is the man who assaulted her when she was a child.

Auden Thornton stands out as Angie, with the movie newcomer earning her LAFF Special Mention for Breakout Performance nod many times over for her convincingly raw performance as the assault survivor. As excellent as Thorton is in the film, she doesn’t carry it alone: her co-stars turn in strong performances of their own, from supporting talent like Laura Bell Bundy to those with bit parts like Madison Iseman.

Two who deserve special mention all their own are Catherine Curtin and Jeff Kober. Unmistakably recognizable from her role as Wanda Bell in Orange is the New Black, Curtin nevertheless inhabits an entirely different personality as Ruth Ann, the unemployed, foul-mouthed mother of Angie who is firmly convinced that a probably-imaginary “disability check” will come in for her any day and end their troubles. Kober, on the other hand, offers a subtly unsettling performance as Angie’s assailant Bruce, a relatively well-off handyman whose kind attitude and gentle appearance belie his lascivious intentions towards her and call to mind Chinatown‘s Noah Cross, another cinematic villain whose affable exterior masked a diseased soul.

Even when he finally gets Angie where he wants her – that is, ready to dance for him in exchange for the money she needs to buy a house – Bruce refrains from forcing himself on her like he did when she was young. Instead, he sits down and waits, the camera showing his head in the lower right corner of the screen and Angie’s head in the upper left corner. Just by looking at the positioning alone one can see that Bruce has all the power in the relationship. Bruce knows it, the viewer knows it, and Angie certainly knows it. The real question is, is Angie debasing herself for the promise of a powerful man’s money or exploiting a weak man’s vices to get him to open his checkbook? It’s a query that has been posed about prostitution for centuries, and one that watchers are bound to think about after seeing the film.

Boasting a smart script with snappy dialogue (Angie replies to a pastor’s suggestion that she pray by saying she did but God “didn’t have the decency to answer” among other beauts), Beauty Mark has a lot to say about sexual assault and violence against women but never forgets that its chief purpose is to tell a story. One doesn’t have to necessarily agree with the movie’s central thesis that no one wants to talk about rape – indeed, the warm reception to it indicates at least some sectors of society are comfortable discussing it – to acknowledge the significance of the issues it raises or appreciate the work that went into weaving a story as rich and thought-provoking as this. By prioritizing its narrative over its commentary, the movie is able to present its message in a way that respects the audience’s intelligence while still getting them to ponder the problem of sexual violence.

Rating: 8/10

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About the author

Reggie Peralta

An aspiring writer, longtime film junkie, and former disc jockey (where I graduated with a BA in Political Science), I've made the jump from penning book reviews and current events editorials for to writing movie and TV news and reviews.

When I'm not working towards my certificate in Radio and Television/Video Production at Fullerton College, I enjoy reading (horror, science fiction, and historical/political nonfiction are particular favorites), participating in my school's TV and theatre clubs, attending movie screenings, plays, concerts, and other events, and trying to come up with pithy things to say on social media. Believe it or not, there are occasions where I find time to write for my own leisure.

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