Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Simon Pegg, Juno Temple, Alexandra Daddario
Written by: Katharine O'Brien
Directed by: Katharine O'Brien
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 105
Date: 03/13/2020
IMDB

Lost Transmissions (2020)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Point of Disorder

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

An earnest attempt to find empathy in a horrifying situation, this indecisive drama still can't quite emotionally connect its two main characters; a scuzzy, brownish visual palette doesn't help much.

In Lost Transmissions, receptionist Hannah (Juno Temple) attends a Los Angeles party and meets noted record producer Theo Ross (Simon Pegg) while he serenades the party on piano and coaxes her to sing. He invites her to his studio, telling her she has real talent. They record some demos, which are strong enough to land Hannah a job writing tunes for pop star Dana Lee (Alexandra Daddario).

Meanwhile, after a discussion about medication, Theo has decided to stop taking his own, for schizophrenia. He becomes increasingly unhinged and irrational, and Hannah continually tries to help, despite Theo's own best efforts to sabotage it. Attempting to get him admitted to a hospital, she finds the U.S. health care system woefully inadequate. So she must convince her friend to return to London, where he can finally get the help he needs.

Lost Transmissions starts well, and the characters are, by themselves, quite interesting. Their dialogue and the performances are naturalistic and charming. It's easy to get behind them, for a time. And the movie is bold enough to depict a platonic male-female friendship, with no promise of romance (nor a threat of violence). But the movie sags under the weight of the question: how far would Hannah really go to help Theo? Is she doing it out of friendship, or a feeling of debt?

It's never quite clear, and there's a constant gap in the story because of it. Moreover, the movie's depiction of the Los Angeles music industry never really feels absolutely genuine; it feels a little fake, a little forced, especially when Hannah lands such a huge job in such a short time.

As the pop star, the usually-delightful Daddario has very little screen time, and can find little to do other than imitate what someone thinks a pop star might act like. Finally, characters constantly flip-flop on issues like whether or not to stop taking medication (to remain "pure"), and on getting, and giving, help. Ultimately, Lost Transmissions leaves a little too much hanging in the air to feel fully satisfying.

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