Julia Hart’s “Fast Color” is a beautiful take on a superheroic family

On one level, the failure of “Fast Color” is a simple story: After its world premiere at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival, Julia Hart’s sci-fi drama received strong reviews but struggled to find distribution.

In September 2018, Codeblack Films, the African American-focused arm of Lionsgate Entertainment, acquired the title. But in January, Lionsgate ended its Codeblack partnership. That meant cutting the film’s marketing budget, and “Fast Color” made just $76,916 in its April 19 limited release on 25 screens.

There are no earth-shattering battles between good and evil in Fast Color. The new science-fiction “superhero” drama from director Julia Hart (Miss Stevens), but there are tremendous struggles.

In an near-future American desert landscape slowly shifting towards economic and ecological catastrophe due to a decade-long drought, a young African-American woman named Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) heads to her home town. She’s returning after years on the road, after an unspecified drug addiction nearly killed her. And her odd abilities — which manifest initially as earthquakes — have made her a person of interest for the government.

More than that, she wants to make amends with her mother (the brilliant Lorraine Toussaint) and her adolescent daughter (Saniyya Sidney) whom she hasn’t seen in years, all of whom have similar powers that they can fully control.

So, the film follows Ruth attempting to reconnect and to understand the peculiar reasons behind why her abilities don’t work as well as theirs. Her presence will attract the attention of a government agent (Christopher Denham) and the local sheriff (David Strathairn).

Hart’s got a strong grasp on her characters and her camera. There are intoxicating moments through peppered throughout — a slow tracking shot running across the rooms of Ruth’s childhood home. Toussaint’s “parlor trick” in which she dissolves a lit cigarette into a colorful constellation of particles that dance in the palm of her hand.

And all this helps to alleviate some of the film’s pacing problems. It is too long and a little bit more satisfied with its sluggish movement than it should be. But I don’t know if those moments would have their same power if they were presented to us in a quicker fashion.

Regardless, Mbatha-Raw is finally given a science-fiction movie worthy of her this year (unlike The Cloverfield Paradox or A Wrinkle in Time, both of which had no idea what to do with her)

That gives her a chance to really embody her character. The generational struggles between the three women at the film’s center are fascinating, and the lineage that lies behind their abilities. And how they are use — offers a potent metaphor. Fast Color may not be able to beat Black Panther at the box office, but it nearly rivals it in heart and revolutionary power.

When about the “Fast Color” release in an interview with IndieWire this month. The actress said the outcome was out of her hands. “There are all these factors that, as an actor you’re not necessarily in control of,” she said. “You just do your job as an actor and months or years down the line, the film comes out.”

However, she express optimism about the next phase of the movie’s life. “I think it’s exciting that it’s now coming out on DVD, and will possibly have this whole other life of its own,” she said. “I believe there is interest in the film, which couldn’t have been release at a better time with the dialogue on women’s’ empowerment. That has progress since we shot it. And with the interesting conversation that has been raise around its release. I think that made people even hungrier to see it.”

At least, that’s the hope. Even home video releases need marketing, especially for films that receive minimal exposure in theaters, or none at all.

But it’s certainly possible that “Fast Color” will eventually find a larger audience on the home video market. As long as viewers are willing to pay the associate costs. Should it eventually land on subscription-based OTT services like Netflix, that would potentially open it up to even more viewers.

In hindsight, a Netflix release from the start would’ve likely led to better outcomes for the film. Given that the streaming giant boasts over 130 million subscribers worldwide. It’s arguable that more people would’ve seen “Fast Color” if it had been available to them at home in the first place. Where a box office gross wouldn’t have determine its success.

Marvel has yet to produce the female equivalent of “Black Panther.”. With a sequel to that film currently in development, some fans are hoping it will find room for X-Men’s Storm. In the Marvel comics, the characters eventually become lovers, and it would seem like a logical move for the studio as it seeks to diversify its slate. That of movies to include more characters of color and female. “Fast Color” may have provide a test case for audience appetite for a movie about a black woman superhero. Instead, we’ll have to wait until the next opportunity. Here’s hoping.

INFO:

Rating: PG-13 (for a scene of violence and brief strong language)
Genre: Drama, Mystery & Suspense, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By: Julia Hart
Stars: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Strathairn, Lorraine Toussaint
Written By: Julia Hart
In Theaters: Apr 19, 2019 Limited
On Disc/Streaming: Jul 16, 2019
Runtime: 100 minutes
Studio: LD Entertainment

CRITIC REVIEWS FOR FAST COLOR

Richard Brody
It’s the rare superhero film that proceeds without a devotion to the spectacular that filters out, from the start, all the interest that’s generated from close attention to ordinary life.

Katie Walsh
The story crafted in images is mysterious and moving, whether in the quick flashes of memory that invade Ruth’s psyche, or the beautiful special effects that render the women’s unique abilities.

Rex Reed
The title Fast Color is just as meaningless as everything else in the movie, which hobbles along stretching the parameters of female empowerment to pad out the running time but fails to hold audience attention.

Adam Graham
“Fast Color’s” ruminative pacing is often dull, and the lack of conflict and suspense undercut the film’s noble intentions and unique storytelling approach.

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