‘For Ellen’ DVD Review
So Yong Kim may not be a name you recognize and her newest feature For Ellen isn’t a “must-see.” However, fans of her work will definitely find aspects of the movie to enjoy, including her improvisational style and mumblecore touches. As a DVD, the release unfortunately doesn’t come packed with a bunch of extra materials.
For Ellen starts and maintains a slower pace, which will definitely be one of the main drawbacks for most audiences. Kim isn’t in a hurry to tell the story, and she obviously believes that it’s meant to be a slow burn. It’s better to know this up front…
The plot revolves primarily around a struggling musician, Joby Taylor (Paul Dano), and his quest to gain custody of his daughter Ellen (Shaylena Mandigo). After a strained relationship and subsequent divorce from his wife (Margarita Levieva), Joby is put in a situation where he must choose his life over his daughter or vice versa, assuming he can gain leverage in the battle.
Co-starring Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite), the film also has vaguely familiar names like Jena Malone (Sucker Punch) and Dakota Johnson (FOX’s Ben and Kate).
As a story, it’s hard not to have a connection when the movie finally culminates. Initially being less about Ellen and more about Joby, their scenes together are definitely the ones that work the best.
The problem remains the stoic plot and unnecessary meandering Kim employs to drag the story out. It almost felt like the movie could’ve been thirty minutes long and just as effective. As a storyteller – and as an audience – this can’t be a good thing.
Dano himself tends to get a lot of flak for his acting. Personally, I was (and still am) on the fence about how he comes across. Having been first introduced to him in Little Miss Sunshine (an all-time favorite), I’ve had a softer spot for him. In For Ellen, the results are once again mixed because his skittish personality feels vacant at times. This could be by design, but I thought it was more about his acting style.
The real star is the newcomer Mandingo. It’s really easy to think a young actress is talented in situations like this because they’re played as shy. However, there’s a sense of poise to her performance, making it seem a lot more good than lucky.
In terms of DVD credentials, Tribeca Films released it earlier this year. It is not exactly full of special features. In fact, the only extra feature is a short (less than 3 minutes) Story Behind The Scene segment (presented by American Express). For what it is worth, the 3-minute extra is pretty interesting because it sheds light on the best scene in the film.
For Ellen isn’t the type of movie to WOW everyone. There’s an audience out there that will enjoy what it has to offer. And while the DVD isn’t packed full of extra servings, at least the story is available, right?
Check out So Yong Kim’s newest movie on DVD if you are interested.
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