starring Isabelle Fuhrman, Amy Forsyth, Dilone, Jonathan Cherry
written and directed by Lauren Hadaway
by Walter Chaw Lauren Hadaway's hyphenate debut The Novice is so good, so self-assured, so kinetic and so very much about something that, all hyperbole justified, it heralds the arrival of an important new artist. Garnering instant comparisons to Whiplash for its heart-attack-fuelled kineticism and hyperfocus on the obsessive, gnostic practice of an obscure discipline and to Black Swan for similar reasons as well as its troubled female protagonist, The Novice's closest analogue for me is actually Andrew Niccol's Gattaca, a film about the pursuit of knowledge and sublimity free of the depressingly quotidian limitations of the body. The Novice itself is free of Damien Chazelle's preening and the literalness of the hero's emotional fracture in Black Swan. Rather, it preaches the gospel of being fine with who you are not despite how fucked up and "intense" you might be, but because of that. At the end of all that auto-excavation, it says that the self, whatever its attendant flaws and hardwired weaknesses, has intrinsic value, and the knowledge of that value comes with immeasurable power. The title of Hadaway's film recalls the Christian concept of the religious "novitiate," that period where a person called to servitude enters into intense study, constant prayer, forced brotherhood, and an invasive interiority, all to prove whether or not they will be welcomed into the fold. In The Novice, the novitiate is Alex Dall, and the "fold" is everyone at her school who thinks she's some kind of freak.