One of the things that I have been grateful for in my unexpected career as an entertainment journalist is the variety of films I’m able to see through my reviews. Most of the time my notes are quick and I expand on them later, but with Usher Morgan’s new film Pickings, my notes were non-existent because I was too enthralled with the movie to be worried about one-liners.
Pickings is a stylized crime-action-drama film that revolves around an independently owned dive bar and the mobsters who are trying to take control of the business. The problem is, the mob boss and his thugs didn’t realize the innocent single-mother owner is not who they think she is.
The first thing that stuck me about this film was the visual style. It’s a homage to graphic-novel stylings we’ve seen in the past, yet it is all its own. The blending of comic book panels and dapper noir lighting creates a unique film that attracts a variety of interests in one intriguing film. The respectable aspect of this homage is that it never veered into the copy column of previous films. You might be able to hypothesis on Morgan’s inspirational films, but you won’t be able to match them exactly.
Like the multiple design elements in the film, the plot is full of compelling storylines with the enigma of the past. The structure of film allows for a fluid knowledge of characters. Jo (Elyse Price) is introduced as loving mother and bar owner who has unspeakable trauma in her past, but as the film goes on, you realize that there is so much more. Price does a wonderful job in playing both sides of the spectrum of heartache and strength. Each character, from Jo’s elusive brother Boone (Joel Bernard) to the resilient oldest daughter Scarlet (Katie Vincent), is robust and created with multiple layers and characterization. It’s appreciated that in a story that is well-rounded in one aspect, visuals, is also well-rounded in others, story and characters.
For me, the most important aspect of this film revolves around the story. Pickings is a film that at it’s center is about the strength and independence of women. It’s refreshing to watch a film that doesn’t play on the movement of female-driven action films, but one that instead builds the world woven within one. The complexity that Morgan, as screenwriter, is able to plunge into in regards to the character of Jo, and then the brilliance that Price brings her to life shows how important this portrayal is to those involved. It never feels forced, it’s not about attaching itself to the movement, but instead it’s highlighting the talent and diversification that actresses possess.
Pickings isn’t what you expect, even if you are aware of all the log-lines and descriptions. It’s a film that surprises you in the best way and allows the audience to lose themselves in the intrigue and complexity of the world on screen. It caught my attention because of its style, but it gained my heart with its strength in character.
Pickings will be playing at the Long Island International Film Expo (July 13th-19th} and available on VOD/DVD/Blu-Ray August 3rd, 2018.
Written by Lisa Mejia
Images provided by Dark Passage Films