Review by Camden Ferrell
Many people dream of one day striking big and winning the lottery. Most of us believe that we would use the money wisely to live comfortably for the remainder of our lives, but it’s all too common we hear of lottery winners who spend it all in a frenzy and find themselves poorer than when they started. To Leslie is a movie that explores one such story. This movie is helmed by television director Michael Morris who has worked on shows like Better Call Saul. With a script penned by Ryan Binaco, this drama had its premiere at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival. Andrea Riseborough is a complex and sympathetic lead, but its bloated run time and meandering can sometimes undermine what feels like an authentic story of regret and forgiveness.
Leslie is a single mother in Texas who wins nearly $200,000 in the lottery. What started out as a day of jubilee and financial relief eventually turns into a life of alienation and poverty as she spends the all the money and becomes impoverished. Having burned bridges with everyone in her life, she fights to redeem herself in any way she can. This is an authentic and intimate story about one woman’s struggle that has the potential to be quite profound.
And on that front, the movie mostly succeeds. It does a great job of painting a portrait of this character that feels three-dimensional. She is incredibly flawed, but the movie remembers to give her humanity and with that, it allows the audience to become empathetic to someone who is easy to write off. The characterization of Leslie is one of the better parts of the movie, but the script is also full of scenes that could have been reduced or removed all together.
Andrea Riseborough leads the movie as Leslie, and she takes on the lead role well. She isn’t groundbreaking, but she is able to make the character feel realistic and believable. Her chemistry with the rest of the cast is hit or miss though. Supporting cast members include actors like Marc Maron, Owen Teague, and Alison Janney among others, and they are just decent for what it’s worth.
At nearly two hours, the movie feels too long. This is a personal and intimate story that could have been thoroughly explored in a more concise manner. Bloating the story only serves in dragging down the other things that this movie does very well. The slower pace is a deliberate choice that works about as much as it doesn’t. The director’s intentions are clear, but it seems like some better execution could have helped elevate this movie more.
To Leslie is an emotional journey of one woman who confronts her past and her mistakes. The lead performance is great, and there is a powerful message that can get muddled by some of the direction and execution. However, general audiences will probably find something to relate to and empathize with in this film.
To Leslie is in select theaters and on VOD October 7.