With Princess Cyd, Chicago-based director Stephen Cone extends his interest in exploring the push-pull of the mind, body and spirit, with a generous emphasis on the latter not typically seen in the landscape of independent film. Leaving the mega-church community of Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party for the Chicago burbs, Cone turns his eye on Miranda Ruth (Rebecca Spence), a successful author and local celebrity, and her 16-year-old niece Cyd Loughlin (Jessie Pinnick), who visits her one summer. It’s not an unfamiliar dynamic: two family members brought together after years of unintended separation. Everyday banalities and differences come to the fore, while past histories and tragedies percolate in the background. Miranda, with her book readings and literary parties, is something of an intellectual. Cyd, lithe and athletic, gravitates to more physical pleasures.
In a sense, the film is a mid-life crisis movie (Miranda’s) crossed with a coming-of-age story (Cyd’s) — an exploration of the different pleasures that people derive from life, and the beautiful fact of that individuality. (A stern, yet affectionate conversation between Miranda and Cyd makes this explicit.) Without the coruscating, kaleidoscopic structure of Henry Gamble, however, Princess Cyd occasionally veers into more schematic territory: the thematic purpose of stray moments occasionally takes precedence over the film’s minor characters. But there’s an earnest, searching core that tempers that impression, even when the script skews blunt or contrived. (An attempt to inject some drama into Cyd’s budding relationship with Katie, a girl that she meets at a local coffee-shop, is rather ill-considered.) “Respect” is the key, as Miranda tells Cyd, and that’s something that Cone’s film understands completely.
Published as part of BAMcinemaFest 2017 | Dispatch 1.