Review: Mouthpiece beautifully captures the complexities of modern womanhood

MOUTHPIECE (Patricia Rozema). 91 minutes. Opens Friday (June 14). See listing. Rating: NNNN

Mouthpiece is a brilliant, moving and fully cinematic adaptation of the award-winning, internationally acclaimed stage play

After her mother’s sudden death, 20-something Toronto writer Cassandra spirals out of control, trying to compose a eulogy while coming to terms with the differences (and similarities) between her and her late mom, Elaine, who gave up a job in publishing and postponed her literary dreams to raise two kids on her own.

Adapting the script with actors Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava, director Patricia Rozema does more than just open the work up she fills in key bits of information, showing us Cassandra out and about in Toronto, where little details – an earring, a book, a flower – remind her of her mother as she tries to cobble together a fitting tribute.

Gradually, filtered through her mordantly funny millennial sensibility, we get a full sense of Cassandra’s strained relationship with her mom, and why she feels such guilt and ambivalence about her premature death.

At the same time, the film maintains the play’s fierce, questing spirit about the complexities of being a modern woman Cassandra’s observations, about everything from food and body image to being seen by men, are frank and brutally honest. Note: one structural element involving the two actors is so intriguing it shouldn’t be spoiled.

Nostbakken’s music, whether performed a cappella by the two leads on the soundtrack or in a big, splashy production number set in a supermarket, adds another layer.

And the cast, which includes the great stage actor Maev Beaty as Elaine, and Ari Cohen and Jake Epstein as Cassandra’s father and brother, brings an authenticity to the material that is deeply satisfying.

Read NOW’s TIFF 2018 feature on Mouthpiece here.


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