‘M.F.A.’ Not an Easy Watch, Needs to Be Seen

by Joe Jarosz on October 13, 2017

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Minor Rock Fist Up]

This film has an ironically perfect release date.

Right now, Hollywood is dealing with the horrifying allegations against Harvey Weinstein.

M.F.A., opening at Screenland at Tapcade today, deals with rape head-on. It’s not it’s not easy to watch. Nor should it be. The stories in the news right now surrounding Weinstein are hard to read, but they need to be told.

Just like M.F.A. It’s a story that must be told, even if it derails in the third act. The overall message is still clear: Society’s perception of the victim needs to change.

Art Noelle (Francesca Eastwood) is weird, even for an art student. She’s reserved. That restraint shows in her art, and her classmates let her know during group criticism.

After getting invited to a party by Luke (Peter Vack), who she’s into, she decides to step outside her comfort zone and go to his party. But then, it happens. Luke rapes Noelle.

She tells her friend and she believes her. But, the first person with authority she speaks to, a school official — who one assumes is only following protocol — makes Noelle cast doubt on what happened. It also made me feel almost as sick as when I watched the rape scene because this is most likely how victims are treated.

So she takes action. When she confronts her attacker, he doesn’t think he did anything wrong, even accusing her of enjoying it. All standard in the rapist playbook from what we’re told to believe.

Something unfortunate happens, and I don’t want to say, but one can easily assume from the trailer and film’s description the direction Noelle takes. It doesn’t end there, though. She begins to confront attackers of other rape cases on her school’s campus.

Apparently, M.F.A. is just one in a line of rape-revenge genre films, something I honestly didn’t know existed, but am not surprised. Imagine The Last House on the Left or I Spit On Your Grave had more substance, and you get M.F.A. Leite and McKendrick’s film touch on the institutional mindset when investigating rape accusations, conflicting standards placed on men and women, and slut-shaming. Sadly, in a tight, 95-minute film, not every topic gets its just screen time. A little more focus and this film could have been great.

Something to note: behind the camera, all women. This story obviously couldn’t be told by men. Director Natalia Leite and writer Leah McKendrick toe a fine line of creating a sympathetic character despite the route she decides to take. She’s the Punisher, but solely focusing on rapists at her college.

According to RAINN, 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. I’ll repeat what I said at the beginning of this review, this is hard to watch and talk about, but rape needs to be talked about. Hopefully this film is another way to get the conversation started.

Joe Jarosz is a Midwest boy now living in California.

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