Here are my reviews of The End of Us and Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil from the 2021 SXSW Film Festival.
THE END OF US
The 2021 SXSW Film Festival is the second film festival I have covered in 2021, following the Sundance Film Festival back in January. Between these two festivals, I have noticed that we have a new growing subgenre on our hands: the COVID comedy. These are small, micro-budget, largely improvised comedies that take place during the COVID-19 pandemic shut down. These are movies that feature a couple main characters in a simple situation that take place while social distancing, mask wearing, and quarantine is taking place. At Sundance, that movie was Zoe Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein’s How it Ends, which looks at a woman who meets a number of eclectic people while on a mission to get to a party before the end of the world, and at this year’s SXSW, it’s The End Of Us, a pandemic romantic dramedy about a couple who break up the day before the country-wide lockdown and are stuck living together until lockdown is over.
Taking place at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and the start of lockdown, which happened just over a year ago, The End of Us acts as snapshot as to what the world was like and how everyone had to adjust to a new life as the pandemic grew. People needed masks, some people were more paranoid than others, people lost their jobs and were looking for the first stimulus check, and people tried to stay informed about the pandemic but did not know what was true and was not. The End of Us is a perfect snapshot of the world a year ago, something that is funny to see now, but also depressing look at the start of a lost year.
But being a snapshot of the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown is just a piece of The End of Us. The movie has a familiar premise about two people trying to navigate their relationship and life in a bizarre situation. Think of this movie as a quieter version of the 2006 rom-com The Break Up, as Leah (Ali Vingiano) dumps Nick (Ben Coleman) yet the two are forced to live together because of the country-wide lockdown and Nick cannot move out. The film is relatively funny and stays fresh throughout most of the runtime, as the two struggle to move on with their lives while they are living in a small, one-bedroom house and are forced to see and talk to each other every day. Vingiano and Coleman are funny, charming leads and you buy them as a struggling couple.
The End of Us felt overlong and really dragged through the third act. Though barely over ninety-minutes, there isn’t a lot of meat to this movie and the premise felt thin and redundant at around the one-hour mark. This seems to be a trend with the COVID comedy, as this was the case with How It Ends as well. I’m sure we will get more COVID comedies, but I hope they add a little more depth to them than just showing a basic story that acts as a snap shot of the global pandemic.
DEMI LOVATO: DANCING WITH THE DEVIL
On the morning of July 24th, 2018, the then-assistant to singer/actor Demi Lovato walked into Lovato’s California home early in the morning. Knocking on her bedroom door and getting no response, the assistant opened the door to a cold, dark room to find Lovato lifeless on her bed. After calling 9-1-1, it was announced that Lovato had a series drug overdose and was minutes away from death.
Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil is a raw, eye-opening documentary that focuses on Lovato and what drove her to this overdose that almost took her life along with her recovery, as told by Lovato and the people closest to her.
This is a shocking documentary and one that will be triggering for some. Lovato is an artist who has been in the spotlight since she was a teenager and that has had an immense effect on her life. Lovato opens up about her struggles with an eating disorder, her body image, drugs, and alcohol from when she was younger to now as an adult. The most shocking piece was Lovato opening up about being sexually assaulted while working for Disney and how that warped her perception of life, love, and aided in her addictions.
The film is a powerful look at coping with trauma and addiction and the complications that comes with it. Lovato’s honesty and openness throughout the film is inspiring, as she gets really personal with everything that has happened to her. I do wish they got more personal with the people around her. All of the other talking heads in the movie just talked about how much Demi meant to them and how her overdose affected them and how supportive they are of Demi, which was nice and heartwarming, but there is something to said about the people who allowed Lovato to get to this point, whether by being enablers or supporting Lovato in a toxic way.
A documentary about Lovato was initially being made while she was on her Tell Me You Love Me tour in 2018, but they had to stop production due to her overdose. The film team changed course and turned into this tell-all, set-the-record-straight documentary, which is quite the pivot and quite the feat. Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil is a powerful look at one stars biggest fall and her struggle to rise back up.
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