Movie Review (Sundance 2022): ‘FRESH’ is a Mix of Tones that Manages to Cook Up a Storm
Director: Mimi Cave
Writer: Lauryn Kahn
Starring: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Sebastian Stan
Synopsis: Frustrated by scrolling dating apps only to end up on lame, tedious dates, Noa takes a chance by giving her number to the awkwardly charming Steve after a produce-section meet-cute at the grocery store. During a subsequent date at a local bar, sassy banter gives way to a chemistry-laden hookup, and a smitten Noa dares to hope that she might have actually found a real connection with the dashing cosmetic surgeon.
This is one of the hardest films to review from the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, and that is due to the fact that it is a lot more fun to enter this film not knowing anything about the main premise. The synopsis only reveals the first thirty minutes of the film, before the title credits even roll in. This review, while primarily sticking to the information that is revealed in the synopsis alone and focusing on non-spoiler analysis, will also delve into information that is important to note going into a film such as FRESH.
The two leading performances in this film from Daisy Edgar-Jones and Sebastian Stan are both excellent. Edgar-Jones is slowly becoming one of the more exciting actresses working today with the projects she is taking on, and FRESH offers her a role with a lot to do. Stan has also taken on a lot of interesting projects over the past few years, however he has struggled to be consistent or to choose performances that let him shine outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Between his titular role in the new Hulu mini-series Pam & Tommy and now a role such as Steve here, this may just be a fresh new start for Stan’s career as he shows a different side to him here.
This film takes several major twists and turns, and with that the screenplay must balance between a variety of tones. It can be jarring to begin, but the first act slowly transitions from one tone to the other, taking the audience on a physical and emotional journey just as Edgar-Jones’ Noa does. There is a major reveal before the title credits roll in, and the editing choices for the opening credits only solidifies the twisted tale that the film goes on to tell.
FRESH may take some twists and turns in the screenplay, but it does still fall into some traditional tropes and the film is quite predictable. It is not the first film to tell this sort of story and to present it the way it does, and I do wish that the story did more with the premise that it has. However, when a film plays to the tropes as well as this and when actors such as Sebastian Stan are having as much fun with their roles and the genre as they are here, the film is a good time regardless.
Throughout the film, Noa is introduced to several characters who the audience do not get to see for a majority of the film but is instead guided by their voices. These moments help flesh out the situation that Noa has found herself in and having women helming the project with Mimi Cave directing and Lauryn Kahn writing the screenplays shows in these moments. It is a perspective that is not new or original, but hard hitting moments in the dialogue and the strength of support between the women is one that is always positive to see reflected in the film.
Given the cast and buzz around this film, it is no surprise that this was one of my most anticipated films of the festival. It could have done with an extra 15 minutes to commit further to the themes of the story and I wish that the film was not as predictable as it was, but this is also a genre that I am drawn to and I am impressed at how Mimi Cave blended the genres and tones to create a thrilling and fun experience. This is one of the easiest recommendations of the Sundance Film Festival line-up this year.