Glasgow-born, Los Angeles-resident 27-year-old filmmaker Marianna Palka has written, directed, co-produced and taken the leading role in her feature debut, which she is currently self-distributing in America. That’s an impressive achievement in itself, but Good Dick is also an uncommonly assured film that’s more than a little daring. Palka’s self-evident drive and talent has been rewarded with a Grand Jury Prize nomination at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and a New Director’s Award win at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in June.
Her film is about a young girl (played by Palka) who whiles away her time in the sprawling ‘burbs of Los Angeles watching pornography rented from her local video store. The boys that work there don’t know what to make of the dowdy, monosyllabic and nameless girl, but one of them (another nameless character, played by Jason Ritter, son of the late actor John) is curious and takes a shine to her. His very charming attempts to woo her, however, are met with disdain. But persistence gets him through her front door, and the pair enter into a sadomasochistic relationship, a kind of trial by fire through which the boy must go in order to get the girl.
It’s a bit reminiscent of the Maggie Gyllenhaal/James Spader S&M romance Secretary, except with the power roles reversed. And like that film, Good Dick is, beneath its seedy and disturbing exterior, a very sweet, very affecting and quite sophisticated film. It heralds a bright new talent.
Selected release from Fri 3 Oct.