Little-known feminist hero Warren makes her directing debut with MLE, a kick-starter funded comedy in which she stars as Julie Roberts, an out-of-work actress stranded in a foreign country who falls into a strange vocation when an odd family hires her to spy on their daughter. MLE is a rare find: an adorable, personal, quirky comedy that manages to not get lost in its own world of in-jokes, despite its highly idiosyncratic nature.
There’s no point beating around the bush: despite the “based on a true story” claim, the plot is totally preposterous, not to mention somewhat dull in places. It really doesn’t matter too much, though, as MLE seems to serve primarily as a calling card for its cast. The film also effects the dismantlement of typical cinematic forms, with the sidelining of heterosexual romance in favour of female friendships. Julie Roberts is not your average cinematic construct; with a passion for video games, puppets, cake and good stories, she defies both gender and social norms. Her Canadian best friend Camila (Julie Sype) is a feisty, ball-busting actress unafraid to tell it like it is and as much a breath of fresh air as Warren is, though in a slightly different way.
Feminist references fly about from start to finish, with a less than flattering portrayal of the modern British man (random misogynistic attacks on London’s streets, arrogant career men treating women like commodities and a whole lot of mansplaining male feminists). A subtle joke sets the tone early on when socially inept Julie has a one-night-stand: “You’re not like the other girls, are you?” jokes the hopelessly pompous lawyer. Is anyone, asks MLE?
There’s much more to be praised beyond the strong performances and feminist core, however. The cinematography is nuanced and vivacious, drinking in the London atmosphere through the use of unique locations, whilst others more familiar are explored in original ways.
Admittedly MLE makes many missteps – too many to count in fact. Quite a few of the gags fall flat on their faces, the Liz Lemon-esque self-deprecating humour doesn’t work quite so well for a woman as objectively pretty as Warren, and maybe we could have done with a bit less of the monological stop-motion puppet inserts. All in all, though, its sweetness and wit trumps all, leaving a fantastically skittish, feel-good comedy.
MLE does not yet have an official UK release date.
Watch the trailer for MLE here: