Master of Fine Art if you were wondering.
Noelle (Francesca Eastwood) is your average art student, she has an average artistic ability and goes to your average Californian college campus. One of those average college campuses where the average number of sexual assaults and rapes happens an average number of times to average students.
After being torn down creatively by her art professor and told to “get things wrong”, she’s invited to a party by a fellow art student who decides to beat her to doing things wrong in the literal sense. The days and weeks following her rape she’s advised by her friend to let it go, and told by the collage counsellor that she’s got nothing that can prove it happened, almost blaming Noelle. With very little left in the way of options she seeks an apology from her attacker and… accidentally ends up killing him. Rather than handing herself in to the police she decides to do more wrong and set things right in other cases of campus rape, becoming an unlikely vigilante. This in turn fuels her artistic nature and makes her experiment with her paints…
It’s a serious subject, one that needs special care and attention if approached in this form. Setting it in an environment that is familiar to a lot of the audience it’s aimed at means it cant shy away from the arguments raised in real life. The aftermath and actions taken by our anti hero must also answer to these same rules. M.F.A isn’t able to tread the same ground of the rape revenge films of the past, where shit went down in unfamiliar territory and the retribution was dealt out swiftly and brutally with no long standing consequence.
The problem, I’m not sure it’s heavy enough material for tackling the issue of reporting/not reporting, who’s to blame, prevention/proof etc… Undoubted if it did try to cover those the film would be hours longer and be a totally different genre. Instead it lightly covers the arguments and problems faced by those affected and try’s to throw in a classic vigilante story line with a “fuelling of artistic fire” angle…. Which mostly consists of her painting naked with her hands. A lot of things to cover in a 90 minute run time which leaves the impact of the rape storyline quite light.
It’s a mish mash which doesn’t entirely work. While it will be a conversation starter on the important matters it muddles it with the vigilante revenge plot, which lacks a level of reality (DNA evidence & even finger prints aren’t brought up at all) the story wants to portray, as well as the brutality that would satisfy a straight revenge story. The subplot about art, could have worked, but placed in the mix with everything else it just slows things down.
Overall it’s entertaining and will make you think, but it’s not as powerful as it could be, especially given the world it’s been released into. Top marks for Eastwoods performance however, it’s certainly one that could have carried off a straight laced dramatic piece this subject deserves.