The unhappy, bored housewife dilemma is no longer confined to narrative storytelling about heterosexual couples thanks to Concussion, a movie that gets a great deal of things right with representation, but falters when it comes to the scandalous underbelly of its story.
“After 40, you have to choose between your face and your ass.”–the following quote is taken from first-time screenwriter, and director, Stacie Passon in the early minutes of her script for Concussion. The humor of the line is obvious, and as a woman it rings horrifying true on many levels. Aging, in the modern day society we have created, is a constant battle towards maintaining perfection; Concussion makes it funny, while watching a group of women struggle it out in spin class (and if you’ve ever taken spin you feel their pain). One woman in particular will become the focal point of the film, Abby (Robin Weigert), a suburban housewife who also happens to be a lesbian. One of the greatest things about Concussion is its not about being a lesbian, or being in a gay marriage raising children. It moves past the need to prove the legitimacy of such a situation to simply say its normal, and there’s no need to dwell on gay rights, we’re passed that. A triumph in filmmaking on the part of Passon, for sure, with this choice.
Passon goes further to emphasize the similarities between heterosexual and gay couples as the story unfolds. Its about infidelity, rediscovery, and the changes that happen in a relationship as time ticks by, for everyone. Abby and her partner Kate (Julie Fain Lawrence) have two lovely children, a beautiful home, plenty of money, and want for nothing. That is until Abby gets hit on the head by her son’s ball and things get a bit jiggled around in her brain…so to speak. The ranting she makes in the car, with blood pouring down her face, are those of absolute discontent with her current life and the choices she has made. She curses having children, and swears she is going back to work–her attempt to reestablish her own identity. This is all well and good, and makes for a great build-up to look deeply inside a relationship. A strong, emotional film about a woman coming undone with normality is always fun–for those who have experienced it and those who have thus far avoided the trap. Stacie Passon knows how to create tone and dynamics in her storytelling, and it shows from the very beginning of Concussion, continuing as we see Abby reinvent herself in the most peculiar way, as a high-class escort (aka prostitute).
Abby’s search for herself, and to fill an emptiness she feels, lands her in the most unlikely situation for a suburban housewife, as a prostitute. She changes the game, though, when she signs on to be a working girl–she has to meet the clients first for coffee, or tea, and then decides whether to take them on as a client. She also only works on Wednesday mornings and is never late to pick the kids up from school. Its all quite silly, really, as anonymity is key in such a situation and Abby’s need to keep her home life running smoothly as she plays in the city all morning is quite the juxtaposition–like high-class fashion to sweatsuits. Abby makes it work, and in many ways she becomes therapist and lover to many women of varying backgrounds, ages, and desires. Her new “job” even helps the relationship she has with her children; or at least she seems to not despise their existence any longer. And its all very interesting to watch, for a while. Then things grow a tad stagnant, as Abby continues to take clients, loses much of her trepidation, and even starts a fling with a heterosexual married woman, Sam (Maggie Siff from “Sons of Anarchy”). Amidst all of this a stationary effect occurs with Abby, and as a viewer you feel it happen like a brick hitting you in the face. The story works so well, until it simply doesn’t anymore. This may be because Abby never actually changes, she just assumes a new lifestyle to mimic change. She is ultimately the same person she was at the beginning of the movie, and the relationship she has with her partner Kate may have its day of reckoning but it leaves very little for the dramatics. The possibility being that even Kate knows Abby is faking it, and in the end she will return to their life in the suburbs, having done what she needed to do to cope.
By the end of Concussion you are left a tad empty, as the movie does not fulfill its promise to truly delve deep into the relationship between Abby and Kate, or Abby’s acceptance of herself. Its entertaining for the most part, and full of fantastic performances by all involved–Robin Weigert’s portrayal of Abby is undoubtedly exceptional. With such a great set-up, and so much room to say a great deal about turning points in one’s life, Concussion could have used more depth and direction in the end. It still remains a great first-time outing for writer/director Stacie Passon, and shows promise of what is to come next from her as a filmmaker.
Link to Festival Film Page: Concussion