Continuing with his directorial trajectory of deconstructing the mythology of Las Vegas, revealing horrific realities beneath the exaggerated, flashy, hyper-consumerist veneer, Bryan Wizemann's sophomore outing, Think of Me, may very well be 2011's Frozen River, featuring an intense and uncompromising Oscar-calibre performance from Lauren Ambrose, while confronting notions of the American dream.
Only, unlike Frozen River, this shocking and devastating drama is actually a jaw-dropping, entirely magnetic spectacle of indie filmmaking beyond the amazing central performance.
Opening with single mother Angela (Ambrose) initiating a one-night-stand at a local strip club, with the hopes of making some extra cash, only to have her eight-year-old daughter, Sunny (Audrey Scott), witness the morning aftermath, this starkly realistic human horror shines an unflattering light on its protagonist that should be impossible to shake.
But as Angela struggles to make ends meet, making as many stupid, but depressingly understandable, decisions as she does smart ones, we start to see that in her own misguided way, she cares, which is a particularly hard sell considering that she routinely pops pills, cooking her daughter dinner while stoned, when not feeding her cheap fast food at dive gambling joints.
In the midst of this, Angela works two jobs, jumping at the opportunity for a workplace investment, when she isn't planning a birthday party for her daughter or routinely getting stuck on the side of the road in her shitty car. Despite not having the education to further herself while living in a vacuum of empty promises and wish fulfilment ideation, she does ultimately try her damnedest to do the right thing.
It's just difficult to take when some of her actions are so gut wrenching and deplorable. But Ambrose sells all of it – even some late film choices that, without context, seem flat-out sociopathic and reprehensible.
To Wizemann's credit, he keeps the stress-levels and life complications high enough that it's easy to miss red flags, such as a co-worker's (Dylan Baker) offer to help Angela make some money selling names and social security numbers.
Beyond the acting and bang-on screenplay, he patches this story together with maximum efficiency, building tension and foreboding with every compounding sequence. So much so that it's barely noticeable that this is a low budget indie film. Now that's talent. (Two Tall Boots)