Review by Cole Groth
Since May of 2020, I've watched nearly a thousand films. Naturally, I've stumbled across some very strange ones. I've seen dozens, if not hundreds, of movies with bizarre plots, strange writing, confusing CGI, and utterly bizarre pacing. The Lost Girls combines all of these elements into a 107-minute train wreck of a movie, making it one of the lamest movie-watching experiences I've had in a while.
Adapted from Laurie Fox's 2003 novel, this film follows Wendy Darling Braverman (played by writer/director Livia De Paolis) on a decades-long adventure through her life. As a 13-year-old, Wendy is swept on a journey to Neverland with fairy tale legend Peter Pan (Louis Partridge), an experience she uses in her career as a writer. As she grows up, finds a husband, and has a child, she's forced to choose between her desire to revisit the love she once had and the family which she has to take care of. Where Fox was able to explore the human condition expansively, De Paolis cannot even scrape the surface of the story, making this feel like a frustratingly flightless slog. We're supposed to follow the odyssey of multiple generations of Wendy's family, but none of them have a story that's interesting enough to follow, including Wendy.
Any good fantasy film uses stunning visual effects to enhance the already expansive story, and this is the department where The Lost Girls struggles the most. There are so many laughably terrible moments of bad green screen that it delves into the realm of ironic entertainment, which is only a good thing if the script can be enjoyed in a lighthearted way. It's hard to find more than a single scene without a visual effect that looks jarringly fake, and it's even harder to take these scenes seriously given the combination of the horrific script and the C-tier acting. There's an intense haze put around most of the characters in the film, which contributes to the fairy tale look at times, but at other times makes it seem like everything was shot against an ugly green screen.
De Paolis's heavy-handed script is full of strange lines such as, "I'm just an ordinary girl, I get my food at the convenience stores," or, "I enjoyed reading your book, can I have some mashed potatoes?" I found myself pausing the movie and rewinding it a few seconds to see if I missed a keyword in certain phrases, only to hear that, indeed, the lines are just poorly written. To play on the story's emotional beats, characters get incredibly angry at each other with little to no provocation. In a particularly intense dinner scene, Wendy's daughter, Berry (Ella-Rae Smith), endlessly berates her mother at the mere mention of her novel. There's very little buildup in their relationship to justify her reaction, and it instead makes Berry an unlikeable character, which seems to be an unintended effect.
From an acting standpoint, this is a very weak film. De Paolis is inadequately suited for the role of Wendy, making some of the simplest lines sound like they're being choked out in a single take. Ella-Rae Smith delivers the strongest performance, managing a demanding monologue with an impressive emotional cadence. Louis Partridge is an interesting choice for Peter Pan. He certainly looks the part and is a fairly adequate actor in his own right, although he isn't given much to work with. The other actors give consistently stilted performances with almost no genuine emotion. It's an embarrassing combination of bad acting and writing that makes the movie seem incredibly amateur.
It's hard for me to find anything to praise about the film, but I genuinely enjoyed the last several minutes, not just because it was finally coming to a close, but because it was a pretty clean ending that felt satisfying enough to leave me feeling not completely disappointed. It's so hard to follow anything that was going on in the first 95 minutes or so, but the last 10 minutes make it seem clean enough not to be a total mess. You might enjoy this if you're a fan of cheesy romance, fantasy, or melodramatic films. It's an interesting concept to take a darker turn on the tale of Peter Pan, but the script isn't able to handle the breadth of the tale at all. Some moments echo the fantastical elements required to make this work, but overall this is an utterly incompetent mess of a movie.
The Lost Girls releases in theaters and on VOD on June 17th.