To Leslie movie review & film summary (2022)

Sweeney and Leslie are a great screen team. He’s as pleasant, uncomplicated and straightforward as Leslie is mercurial, tortured, and internalized. But paradoxically, Sweeney is more intriguing during his first few appearances onscreen because he’s as generous as Leslie is grasping and manipulative. Rather than chase her from the property, Sweeney offers her a job as a maid at the motel, and throws in a room for her to live in. He even pretends to have mistaken Leslie for somebody who’d been applying for the maid job, which gives Leslie a little gift of dignity before she’s even gotten to know him. 

Usually characters who are this nice in a movie the first time you meet them turn out to be hypocrites, exploiters or worse. Sweeney’s a genuinely nice person who seems to want to make everyone’s life better, even if it means losing money and getting personally hurt. Sweeney knows what he’s getting into — we eventually get a backstory that explains why he’s so kind and nonjudgmental around people with Leslie’s problems, even when she’s at her most frazzled and pathetic. And yeah, you guessed it, he’s sweet on her, and Risenborough and Maron have such immediate, easygoing chemistry that you know there’s no way the film will be able resist the temptation to pair them up for a happy ending, even though in real life a relationship like this is equally likely to end with the police or fire department pulling up at the hotel in the wee hours.

In the love story aspect, as in others—such as Nancy’s cartoonish single-minded determination to publicly humiliating the heroine whenever she can—”To Leslie” makes choices that are a more conventional than one might wish for, especially considering how efficiently the film rivets our attention simply by creating a psychologically plausible adult woman and letting us watch her exist. The character of Leslie, and Risenborough’s performance in the role, are greater than the film that surrounds them. Some of “To Leslie” has a kind of heartwarming 1990s Sundance-indie feel, though the unpretentious acting and filming, especially during the razor-wire first act, disguise that; the longer the film goes on, the more predictable the story becomes—and all told, there’s probably too much early degradation and not enough scenes showing Leslie doing the hard work of righting her own ship; the balance seems off, and there’s probably a whole other, more surprising movie hiding inside that “Ten Months Later” ellipse near the end.

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