People at a decisive moment of their lives is what Lorelei is about. Or, more specifically people who should be at a decisive moment of their lives but whose circumstances are so proscribed that they’re incapable of seeing an opportunity offered, even when one does come along.
Wayland is fresh out of jail after 15 years. A former biker with an iron-cross neck tattoo, he alone who took the fall for an armed robbery gone wrong. Now, his old gang are there at the gates to welcome him back to the outside world but can offer him little in the way of support beyond the initial booze and babes party.
Instead, a helping hand is extended by the local minister, Pastor Gail, who offers tough love and a roof to Wayland, who accepts this kind offer with bad grace, figuring that people who need help are weak, and those who offer it are too.
He runs into old flame Dolores, aka Lola, who’s had three different kids by three different men while Wayland has been inside and lives a fairly hand to mouth existence with Periwinkle Blue (the angry daughter cusping puberty), Denim Blue (the boy child who wants to dress like a girl) and Dodger Blue (a mixed race, mouthy horndog always working out and keen to get into the army).
They resume, with a crunching of gears, their old relationship, Wayland uneasily becoming a father figure, good-time Dolores uneasily accepting that she might now have settled down.
So far, so poor white trash. Wayland is played by Pablo Schreiber, and he gives the familiar hyper-masculine Schreiber character (see The Wire, American Gods, Orange Is the New Black) a soft edge – Wayland is tough, but that’s because he’s had to be. The dramatic dangle is that there’s another side to him that’s never found expression. Maybe now, with this instant family, the chance has arrived.
Lola is played by Jena Malone. The IMDb suggests The Hunger Games when you type in her name but she’s an actor with a lot more breadth and subtlety than that suggests, and one whose name always twitches some interest (she recently played David Bowie’s wife, Angie, in Stardust). Like Schreiber, she’s playing a character who’s been dealt a shitty hand by life and is all but deaf to fate whispering hints in her ear on how to play it.
This is the writing and directing debut by Sabrina Doyle, who’s made a competent, solid and deliberately unshowy film that’s about real people rather than flameouts and freaks. There are no meth factories in Lorelei, though in plenty of other similar films there would be, because of the social class of the people who feature.
The Lorelei is a German mythical watery creature who haunted the rock from where she fell to her death into the River Rhine. Dolores/Lola is the modern embodiment of that creature, and sure enough Lola swims. Once, she was heading towards making the Olympic team but instead fell to this fate – three kids, a minimum wage job cleaning at a crap motel.
Is Lorelei about Lola though? That’s the issue here. In Wayland and Lola we have two characters, one of whom is a touch under-developed, and it isn’t Wayland. As a result a lot of good stuff fails to resonate the way it might have done.
The committed performances by Malone and Schreiber, by the three kids, Chancellor Perry, Parker Pascoe-Sheppard and Amelia Borgerding, the pungent support by the likes of Trish Egan as the Pastor, Ryan Findley as Wayland’s old biker pal Kurt, Jeb Berrier as the owner of the auto salvage business who gives him a job, they all are left just hanging, a bit like Wayland and Lola, though that isn’t the intention, surely.
Lorelei – Watch it/buy it at Amazon
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© Steve Morrissey 2021