Fighting Belle (2017) - USA - Romantic Comedy - Not Rated (Family)
Written by Antonio Gangemi, Aimee Parrott & Sean Riley
Directed by Sean Riley
Starring Jessica Harthcock, Noah Cook, Donnie Pierre, Mallory Hynes, Carol Ann Scruggs, Joel Rogers, Ryan Czerwonko, Sherri Eakin, Caroline Delatte, Austin Langley, Joshua Powell, Naomi Prentice, G. Tremain Merrell, Daisy Prescott
A southern fried romantic comedy with a distinctly different approach to finding love succeeds in delivering a one-two punch with a wonderful performance by Jessica Harthcock and excellent direction by Sean Riley.
It's the biggest day in Delilah's life. She's a southern belle in a proud and prominent family, winner of multiple beauty pageants, and she is walking down the aisle today, her wedding day, to be married to the man she loves in front of all of her family and friends. Wait! What's this? The groom is having second thoughts? Jilted, humiliated in front of family and friends, and now all alone, what's a girl to do? Well challenge the groom to a rematch, with boxing gloves that is. Works for me.
Fighting Belle is a microbudget independent production that was shot in 9 days on location in Mississippi on a budget of only $15,000, as I've been told. As in any low budget production there are seams that show through, in this case primarily being inconsistency in the audio, and occasional inconsistency in the lighting. That being said, what has been accomplished on such a low budget is amazing, and any failings of a low budget are more than made up for by the performances and the direction.
The camera work is well done using multiple camera angles in even the simplest of scenes. The director Sean Riley succeeds in not letting the camera or viewer linger. Changing up the perspective often and successfully, keeping the flow and not creating confusion, keeps the attention of the viewer, and Riley certainly accomplishes this very well. There's some nice scene structure as well. A particular scene at a charity event uses Harthcock's wonderful ability with expressiveness to lead into a wide shot showing the characters in different positions then drawing them across the scene into place. It is beautifully orchestrated and portentous in its setup. I'm seriously impressed with the group composition in this film as well.
Jessica Harthcock gives the viewer a deceptively brilliant performance in this. I say deceptively because it's multi-faceted incorporating humor, physical comedy, tenderness, romance and feeling, yet she is so effortless in doing it that she just seems natural. Sometimes the very best performances are the ones hardest to see, but if you pay close attention, or cheat like I did and watch it twice, you'll see a performance that brings a character to life while Harthcock completely disappears into the role.
An interesting assortment of characters populate the movie including Delilah's gym mates such as the intimidating yet sexy Slice, the buoyant Romeo and the head-turning Tandy played by Noah Cook. In a movie filled with caricatures Noah Cook provides a balancing straight man character as well a catalyst to bring out Delilah's more intimate self. Additionally Noah Cook's physical prowess as well his intensity brings a believability to the boxing aspect of the film. I would be remiss if I did not make a special mention of Mallory Hynes as Delilah's sister Charlene who adds a soulful southern charm to the film, Caroline Delatte as Tandy's too smart for her age little sister, and also Daisy Prescott who is just the most adorable flower girl.
My first time watching this film I felt there were parts that lingered. A second time through and really it is the inconsistency in the audio that created that and not the story itself. The narrative is well structured not leaving anything out, nor are there any superfluous scenes. The story takes its time to focus on the characters and the budding love story; the plot seed of a jilted bride getting revenge is just that, a seed, and that seed grows into a story of a young woman finding love and people finding themselves once they step out of their expected roles. The last bit of the movie did feel a little rushed to me, though it's not incomplete at all and was probably just me wanting a little bit more.
Despite the often times under-classed audio in this, the performance of Jessica Harthcock alone would be worth recommending the movie, but add to that an interesting supporting cast of characters and especially fine direction showing a promising director in the making and my recommendation goes up another full notch.
My Rating: 4 Fingers