Maya Dardel

Maya Dardel

MojibMojib   October 07, 2017  
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Maya Dardel

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YEAR
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2017
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DESCRIPTION
The film depicts the final weeks leading to the ambiguous disappearance of Maya Dardel, an internationally respected poet and novelist, who lived until 2016 in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. Maya announces on National Public Radio that she intends to end her life and those young male writers may compete to become the executor of her estate. They are challenged intellectually, emotionally, erotically, until one of them begins to fathom Maya's end game.

It's rarely a good sign when a film changes its name in the middle of a festival run. Name-switching is generally the first line of defence for weak films, in an attempt to distance themselves from critical reviews. Recent examples include the multiple monikered Two Mothers/Adore and Predisposed/Why Stop Now? But if the film retains its flaws, at least the simplified Maya Dardel is an improvement on its SXSW title Critically Endangered Species, which suggests the self-indulgence to come - and no doubt provided every early reviewer with an irresistible one-liner.
The writing is astute and sharp; it’s perhaps an acquired taste though, boasting an ecosteric, pretentious swagger to it - a little too much so to fathom in my opinion (the directors become too shoved up their own asses that they lose focus of how to actually suspend the film above just dialogue) but it's hard to deny that there is a finesse and astuteness to the writing and the dialogue here, that is even somewhat compelling, regardless. There is irreverence for developing much of a coherent narrative, though, and the lack of one becomes quickly apparent when the film begins to meander aimlessly after about the midway mark and the film starts to waver irrevocably. Colter and Zyzak seem so caught up in letting their pretentious, silver-spoon upbringing shine through the dialogue that they forget to actually give much depth and meat to their film beyond the conversations that quickly wears thin and their one strong character.
Things start well in the confines of her California home, as Olin brings a steely intensity and aloofness to Maya, who, it turns out, is interested in whether her prospective heirs' sexual swords are mightier than their pens. What could have become an interesting film on power dynamics, ageing and sexual tension soon slumps into a much more pedestrian plot - as she whittles the field down to the milquetoast Ansel (Nathan Keyes) and hot blood Paul (Alexander Koch).

As Maya cycles through the process of interviewing potential heirs, alternately asking them to honestly appraise their own work and having them please her sexually; her ultimate end-game becomes less and less discernible. Although it’s unclear what she’s looking for — to humiliate her applicants, to further flex her prodigious talents, to find meaning at the end of her life, to simply get her rocks off — Olin is so spell-binding in the role it nearly doesn’t matter, just watching her is treat enough.
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Maya Dardel - EIFF Trailer
Maya Dardel - EIFF Trailer

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