To Leslie

A knock-out performance from Andrea Riseborough that keeps you clean and sober.

Andrea Riseborough gives her best performance since “Disconnect” in “To Leslie,” and both these films are small independent features with big souls. It represents alcoholism with a certain kind of truth and patience, and it doesn’t overdose on the anger or the behaviors.

With the right make-up artists and script written by Ryan Binaco, Riseborough looks like a drunk. And that drunk would be Leslie, who spent all her lottery winnings in a flash. She’s pissed away the one chance she’s had to give her son James (Owen Teague) a better life.

Looking back at Adam Adams as a druggie in “Hillbilly Elegy,” I just hated all the unhappiness and stupidity that was represented in such a drab and depressing nature. “To Leslie,” directed by Michael Morris (“Better Call Saul,” Bloodline”), is less self-congratulatory and more consistent in trying to figure out what’s wrong with this woman. Alcoholism is an addiction, and people may or may not recover from it, so it’s a challenge for us to see if she can or can’t.

Years after after blowing away her winnings, she’s been booted out of her motel room, and needs to live with her son. He agrees to let her stay with him on the condition that she gets a plan, one that has nothing to do with drinking. She says she’s clean, but we all know she’s lying.

That’s why he sends her to live with her former friends-Dutch (Stephen Root) and Nancy (Allison Janney)-who then boot her out, because of her drinking. They’re just as angry as the son, but they’re the ones she would say “FU” to.

And then, she comes across a motel clerk (Marc Maron), who offers her job that includes room and board. He actually becomes beneficial to her life, as he tries to get through to her condition. He’s nice enough to give her a chance at redemption, even if she doesn’t always make things easy for him.

This weekend, compare Riseborough’s other role in “Amsterdam” with hers in “To Leslie.” Notice that her role was lousy with how she was trapped in a subplot where her husband couldn’t live with her and was having an affair. At least I think that’s what happened, because I couldn’t follow that bad movie. Now, in “To Leslie,” notice how she puts all her humanity in transcending from an English actress to a Southern character, as the story is set in West Texas, and acknowledge how well she adapts to the life of a drunk. This is a messy role for her, and yet, she pulls it off successfully and memorably.

There’s also some powerful supporting work from Maron and Janney. The former has had a great year at the movies with voice roles in “The Bad Guys” and “DC League of Super Pets,” and as a human, he has the dialogue and vulnerability. He’s able to distinguish himself as a comedy star and a serious actor, and don’t think I haven’t forgotten about “Sword of Trust.” And the latter explodes with great intensity. See how she argues with Leslie in various places, and yet, no injuries are involved. This movie picks words over violence. Something the world can’t seem to grasp.

“To Leslie” is a small independent film, which premiered at SXSW, and you’ve probably never heard of. I’ve never heard of it, until I heard some great things about it. As I always say: “It’s the little things that make the big things.” I like to stick up for the little guys, and this movie has a big heart. See for yourselves.

Rating: 4 out of 4.

In Select Theaters and Streaming on VOD

Categories: Drama

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