Review by Camden Ferrell
Take Out Girl is the newest film from writer and director Hisonni Johnson. This film will be having its world premiere at this year’s Cinequest Film Festival. Despite the film’s great premise and diverse cast, its execution and writing never fully deliver on its potential.
In this movie, Tera, a street-smart girl, works for her mother’s failing restaurant. When seeking medical care for her mother’s back would mean closing the restaurant, Tera decides to turn her delivery abilities into a way to make money in the drug business. This is a really intriguing premise, and it’s one that had a lot of narrative and thematic potential, but the movie doesn’t truly explore its story in the most effective way.
The script, which was penned by Johnson and star Hedy Wong, is mostly adequate throughout. The movie definitely has a firm grasp on the vernacular of the people its portraying, but there are times where the dialogue can feel fairly convoluted. However, the script does try its best to highlight the financial plight of its characters, but it can still feel unnatural at times.
The performances are somewhat inconsistent throughout the film. Hedy Wong plays Tera, and she fits the role very well. For the most part she has solid delivery and decent emotion, but there are moments throughout where the performance seemed noticeably out of place. It definitely is distracting to what’s going on in the film. Unfortunately, the rest of the roles are very similar. They have some fair scenes, but the quality will stagger afterwards.
The aesthetic of this film is probably its strongest attribute. Johnson and Alberto Triana both worked as the film’s cinematographer. Johnson’s experience as a cinematographer and working with music videos probably helped give this film a nice style at times. While certain scenes and shots were composed averagely, there are some montages that are framed really well and gives the film a more urban aesthetic. It would have been nice if these moments were more frequent though.
Thematically, this movie doesn’t use its resources nearly as well as it could have. It features a prominently Asian cast, and it’s really refreshing to see this story from their perspective. However, the movie doesn’t ever really address issues of race, class oppression, or healthcare adequately, and it would have been better to really make this story more rooted in their experiences.
Ultimately, this movie feels underwhelming. Its moments of tension and drama rarely feel that way, and there are lots of creative and technical choices that are questionable to say the least. It had a lot of potential, but it squanders a lot of that potential on its subpar execution and convoluted logic.
Take Out Girl held lots of promise, but it never achieves the heights that it could have. There are some glimmers of artistry sprinkled throughout, and while this shows promise for those involved with the film, this particular movie doesn’t deliver.
Take Out Girl will be playing at the 2020 Cinequest Film Festival from March 6 to March 15.