Friday, 9 June 2017

CAUGHT ON NETFLIX: Deidra & Laney Rob a Train

Released in March of this year, Deidra & Laney Rob a Train is part of Netflix's new plan to take on the majors by distributing their own movies.

Deidra (Ashleigh Murray) is the valedictorian of her high school and looking forward to moving away from her hometown. While her mother (Danielle Nicolet) works and her father Chet (David Sullivan) works hard to be out of the picture, Deidra looks after her sister Lane (Rachel Crow) and younger brother Jet (Lance Grey).

The kids' lives get a whole lot harder when Mom goes to jail. With bills (and Mom's bail) to pay and Child Protective Services breathing down her neck, Deidra has few options left. With Laney's help, she starts robbing the long-haul trains which crank past their house every night.

Written by Shelby Farrell and directed by Sydney Freeland, this movie is a lot of fun.

The cast are uniformly terrific: As the titular characters, Ashleigh Murray and Rachel Crow are awesome. They have great chemistry, and really feel like siblings.

Murray, who you may recognise as Josie from Riverdale, is great as Deidra - the character is a real get: super-smart and wise beyond her years, she has clearly had to grow up fast to pick up some of the slack from her hard-working mom, and Murray manages to make her transition from honours student to criminal believable. The scene where she confronts her mother in prison is heart-breaking.

As younger sister Laney, Crow is wonderfully unassuming. What makes their relationship so great is how Crow and Murray complement each other - where one sister is strong, the other is weak, and vice-versa.

Their nemesis is Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother Where Art Thou?), a disgraced railway investigator who sees his latest assignment as a chance at redemption. Though the movie is based around teens, his character feels like he stepped out of a darker movie. I give the filmmakers credit - he does not feel out of place. While he is an asshole who takes his job far too seriously, his motivations make sense.

Sasheer Zamata (Saturday Night Live) plays their school's disillusioned careers advisor. Rather than lean into the character's misery, Zamata plays off it. This woman is mentally checked out and ready to move on - she's just waiting out the clock. She ends up helping the girls when Deidra bribes her with a way out of her job.

While the conceit could have been played in a quirkier, more surreal style, Deidra & Laney Rob a Train feels very grounded. It's rooted in the characters and their relationships. It's the humanity of the ensemble that really pulls the movie together. These characters feel like normal people with strengths, flaws and insecurities.

I have been bingeing the podcast Black Men Can't Jump in Hollwood for the last few months. It reviews movies on the basis of their racial representation, and the overriding theme of the show is a desire for roles that portrayed people of colour as human beings. Without even trying, I feel like this movie manages to do that.

It's a really fine flick. It's so good, Deidra & Laney Rob a Train almost makes up for all of those Adam Sandler movies Netflix has been churning out. It's hyperbole, but I am really looking forward to what these people do next.

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