‘Normal’ is average.”
by Jay Seaver
“My Normal” is thoroughly enjoyable, but I’ve got to be honest: It might come off as just another talky indie/mumblecore film if half the cast of characters were not lesbian dominatrices.
Take Natalie (Nicole LaLiberte); she’s a lesbian dominatrix (he said, in case search engines don’t recognize the plural). As the film opens, she and a couple of her friends and co-workers (Naama Kates and Maine Anders) are doing a little role-playing with Jim (Heath Kelts). She’s not damaged; she regularly has family dinners with her mother and sister (Katie Wallack), though her grandmother doesn’t get that fixing Natalie up with boys won’t get her anywhere. She doesn’t necessarily want to be a dom all her life; she’s studying film and writing a screenplay with her neighbor/ganja dealer Noah (Ty Jones). And she’s just met Jasmine (Dawn Noel Pignuola), a nice girl who is a little uncomfortable with Natalie’s job.
As one might guess from the title, the filmmakers aren’t particularly looking to take Natalie to task for the way she lives her life. In the abstract, that’s fine and laudable; that life appears to be comfortable and not hurting anybody, including Natalie herself. The film does suffer for it in some ways, though: Sparks by and large fail to fly when Natalie’s normal comes into conflict with someone else’s. Either things quickly work out for the best or the issue dies out. There is, for instance, no real back-and-forth between Natalie and Jasmine over how Natalie’s job makes Jasmine uneasy. Given that, at some points, Jasmine is painted more sympathetically than Natalie (due to a subplot that could be made more clear), it’s a conversation that both they and the audience deserve.
And it’s one that the film and audience would be in a good place for, as we do tend to like these characters. Nicole LaLiberte’s appearance is the first thing that causes her to jump off the screen (at least as Natalie, she’s a striking redhead), but she keeps our attention with an easy confidence that occasionally contains hints of her professional demeanor – though she turns it up a notch or three when working as a mistress, she remains very assertive and even kind of pushy when off the clock.
A lot of people watching are going to think it’s a pity Natalie isn’t straight, because there’s a really nice rapport between her and Ty Jones as Noah. He’s a pretty straightforward character, although Jones does hit the right note when he’s got to be hurt a little. Katie Wallack is generally a good foil as Natalie’s sister Rebecca, while Kates and Anders fill the gang out nicely. Pignoula has good moments as Jasmine, but hampered a bit by how her character is under-served, especially at the end.
For the most part, director Irving Schwartz and the three credited writers put together a decent movie, and probably deserve kudos for not going down the road of what looks like an obvious unrequited love subplot. They manage to find some funny workplace bits within both Natalie’s dominatrix and film-set intern work, and give Jasmine an imaginative nightmare. The end is obvious in retrospect but kind of clever when it happens.
“My Normal” could be, and maybe should be, better. It’s got a few people involved who may eventually be ticketed to bigger and better things, but it’s a clear case of how its good intentions about acceptance and respect can sometimes get in the way of good cinema. (http://efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=20459)