Please Baby Please

Please Baby Please ★★★★

The film opens on a gang of leather-clad street toughs posing and swaying to discordant jazz. The overt West Side Story reference invites the viewer into the glossy, pastiche-fueled world of Please Baby Please, a title like a 1950’s pop-ballad refrain, saturated in neon, studded with vintage cars, bobby socks, and ascots, and dripping in beatnik slang and poetry. The film’s flamboyant, quasi-musical aesthetic is a firehose of desire, and director Amanda Kramer drowns the screen with style and sensuality. The cast is game for all the carnivalesque cheekiness she can conjure. Andrea Riseborough clocks about a thousand different tones and expressions per scene, ambling between cat-like slink and wise-guy brawn, and Harry Melling continues to impress with his eclectic career choices since appearing as Dudley Dursely in the Harry Potter series. The two play a couple, Suze and Arthur, who witness a murder by the balletic hoodlums, and it sends their marriage and gender identities into freefall. The film dances and swoons around the central question of “What is a man?”—a ripe interrogation for the retro mid-century setting, during which antiquated notions of gender conformity abounded. Nothing here is musty or stale, though. Kramer’s vision is fresh, electric, and thrillingly modern.

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