Title: Loves Her Gun
Screened At: SXSW 2013
Directed By: Geoff Marslett
Starring: Trieste Kelly Dunn, Ashley Spillers, Francisco Barreiro, Jennymarie Jemison, John Merriman, Chris Doubek
Similar to real life, “Loves Her Gun” has its more profound moments and its duller ones, but Trieste Kelly Dunn gives the lead character everything she’s got, giving the film as a whole the best possible chance of holding your attention through to the bold, unforgettable finale.
After a vicious mugging in Brooklyn, Allie (Trieste Kelly Dunn) decides her best chance of putting the incident behind her is by escaping. She hitches a ride with an Austin-based band and is starting a new life in Texas before she knows it. She jumps from couch to couch, but manages to find herself a job and a group of friends, and eventually the place begins to feel like home. However, no matter how comfortable she gets, the violence of the attack still haunts her, keeping her up night after night. When alcohol and sleeping pills don’t do the trick, Allie decides that owning a gun just might.
“Loves Her Gun” is a Trieste Kelly Dunn showcase. Writer-director Geoff Marslett is an immensely competent filmmaker with a strong vision and the skillset to present it in an honest and captivating manner, but it’s Dunn’s performance that gives the film life and heart. Allie is front and center from the moment the movie begins and the tale is told entirely from her perspective. She’s a likable hero, giving you someone to root for, but also makes mistakes, making her feel like a real person. One minute she’s thriving and you’re thrilled for her, but slowly the darkness creeps back in and you’re begging her to make the right decision rather than lose herself to the memories of the attack.
The weaker spots come when we lose sight of that attack. Allie does strike up a very charming relationship with one of the members of the band, Clark (Francisco Barreiro). He’s no dreamboat lead singer with the ability to whisk her away to a happier life, but he’s as close as you get to the honest version of just that. Again, there’s that push and pull of hoping they make it official because he’ll take care of her, but Allie did just leave a guy behind in Brooklyn so perhaps a break is the healthier option. We get another intriguing connection between Allie and her boss, Pearl (Jennymarie Jemison). Again, Pearl boasts a nice balance between positives and negatives. She’s a hard worker and isn’t about to let Allie get away with skimping on her landscaping duties, but also grows to care about Allie and truly wants to help her. But these relationships and every other supporting element of “Loves Her Gun” always wind up in the same position – they thrive when they’re connected to the heart of the film – the mugging and the effects of it – but otherwise, they feel like unrelated slices of life and wind up derailing the story’s progression.
However, “Loves Her Gun” does have an explosive ending and that conclusion gets its value from the fact that the rest of the film gives you the sensation that you’re just wading in Allie’s day-to-day life. Is it worth letting a viewer’s mind wander to achieve that result? Yes, but not a strong yes. There’s nothing wrong with a simple movie that reflects an ordinary day, but it’s the extraordinary that’s going to stick. You’ll probably forget about the argument Allie has with her friend Zoe (Ashley Spillers) over Clark, but the violence and results of Allie’s mugging will be tough to shake, even well after the credits role.
“Loves Her Gun” just takes commitment. You’ll get those more outstanding scenes and as long as you’re willing to stick with the film through the slower, seemingly less significant ones, you’ll be rewarded in the end. On the other hand, if your attention does wander, you could miss out on the build, making the grand finale feel unearned.