MOVIE OF THE WEEK April 5, 2024: PARACHUTE

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Launching into adulthood and finding her place in the world is a messy, challenging process for Riley (Courtney Eaton of the show Yellowjackets) in actor-turned-director Brittany Snow’s thoughtful feature debut, Parachute. As she stumbles toward real maturity after going through rehab for eating and body image disorders, Riley isn’t always easy to like, but Snow and Eaton work together to make you want to root for her to succeed.

Riley is fresh out of treatment and — theoretically — ready to step back into real life as Parachute opens. Although her “real life” seems pretty privileged, with her apartment paid for by her mother and employment apparently more of a “nice to have” than a necessity, Riley’s soft financial cushion doesn’t protect her from being emotionally vulnerable (her mom may pay the bills, but she doesn’t show up in person). Which means that when she meets kind, understanding Ethan (Thomas Mann) at a bar on her first night back, Riley primed to soak up the affection and support he seems all too willing to offer her. Since she’s not supposed to get into a relationship during her first year out of rehab, they instead become best friends — but the dynamics of their friendship are complicated at best and co-dependent at worst.

Riley is undermined at every turn by deeply seated insecurity and self-doubt, which manifest most frequently in binge-eating behavior and a compulsion to compare herself physically to every other woman she sees. Whose stomach is flatter? Whose arms are more toned? Who has a bigger thigh gap? At one point during a therapy session with Dr. Akerman (Gina Rodriquez), Riley chalks this constant measuring-up to part of being a modern woman — and, sadly, she’s not wrong. While Riley is clearly suffering from a clinical disorder, anyone who spends any time on Instagram or other similar platforms (or watches mainstream movies and TV shows, or reads a magazine) will be familiar with the feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing they can contribute to.

Parachute is a commentary on the influence of social media, the pressures of modern womanhood, the complexities of friendships and romantic relationships, the emotional cost of being involved with someone who’s battling addiction, and the impact of loss. That’s a lot for a filmmaker to wrangle, but Snow proves up to the task, directing Eaton and the rest of the cast with empathy and care. Her history working in Hollywood gives her a bit of a running start as a first-time feature director (particularly evident when familiar faces like Dave Bautista and Joel McHale pop up in supporting roles), but this is no vanity project: Parachute is a sensitive drama that deals authentically with timely topics and is a promise of good things to come from Snow in the future. — Betsy Bozdech

Team #MOTW’s comments:

Leslie Combemale The ever-underrated Thomas Mann plays his character with nuance and quirk, as usual. It’s the relationship between him and lead Courtney Eaton that makes Parachute really fly. Neither character phones in the way that each interprets their own recovery, they build their experiences in believable ways that touch and connect with viewers. The film may be heartbreaking, but as a chronicle of a girl struggling with body image and a boy struggling with alcohol abuse, sadly, it’s also true to life. There’s a sensitivity that Brittany Snow brings to the screen as both director and co-screenwriter for Parachute that suggests she will prove to be a thoughtful and considered director on future projects.

Loren King A millennial relationship movie that feels grounded in reality and truth, Parachute is the solid debut feature from Brittany Snow, best known as an actor in the Pitch Perfect films, among others. Working with a script cowritten by Becca Gleason, the drama centers on Riley (Courtney Eaton), a twenty something fresh from rehab and dealing with anxiety and eating disorders. The film assuredly shows the maddening cycle that keeps Riley stuck in her head, battling perceived flaws and chasing what seems unattainable from men to the perfect body. The film’s occasional indulgences actually make sense for its heroine who, despite her 12-step program, sabotages success. Whether sessions with an understanding therapist (Gina Rodriguez) or a budding relationship with easy going musician Ethan (Thomas Mann) who likes Riley in spite of her insecurities and narcissism, Riley seems determined to punish herself. Without too heavy a hand, the film smartly depicts the dangers of codependency and the frustration that a recovering addict puts on a loving support system such as Riley’s best friend Casey (Francesca Reale). The performances are all first rate but Mann and Eaton stand out especially as the couple who seem made for each other even though life and other anxieties often get in the way.

Jennifer Merin Parachute is actor-turned-director Brittney Snow’s impressive and affecting debut feature. The sensitively realized coming of age narrative follows young Riley (Courtney Eaton) who’s just returned home from a stint in rehab for eating and body image disorders. She’s seeing a therapist and going to 12-step meetings, but finds herself on the verge of trading one addictive behavior for another. At a night out with friends, she meets and falls for Ethan (Thomas Mann). Since her 12-step program forbids dating for the first year of ‘sobriety,’ she and Ethan decide to be best friends. The nuanced performances by Eaton and Mann are very convincing, especially as their best friends relationship is stressed by codependency and they struggle to work that out. The theme of Parachute is timely and the characters are genuinely relatable. Snow’s directorial sensitivity and skill indicate a bright future for her in filmmaking, and we can’t wait to see what she chooses to do next.

Nikki Fowler: Brittany Snow’s directorial debut Parachute is engulfed in the power of self love and it is a perfect conversation about body image, addiction, and mental health, that hits hard for Generation Z, making it an honest must watch. It’s perfectly uncomfortable in all of the chaos that can, at times, make up life for mid to late 20 something’s. Both Riley (Courtney Eaton) who suffers from love/sex addiction and an eating disorder and Ethan (Thomas Mann) who suffers with codependency issues are trying to find their way in this unconventional but actually very normal relationship (when one realizes that no one’s life is perfect.) Parachute forces you to ponder the many factors that young people deal with in their lives, especially a new generation that is seeing unprecedented challenges including the pressures of social media, political unrest and surviving a pandemic. The direction and score have a feel good and light air as the writing addresses some very serious issues with a perfect cast including Gina Rodriguez and Kidd Cudi.

Sandie Angulo Chen: Actor-turned-filmmaker Brittany Snow’s directorial debut Parachute is an impressively acted relationship drama about two 20-somethings with different conditions who end up in a codependent platonic relationship. The two leads, Courtney Eaton (Yellowjackets) and Thomas Mann (About Fate) give nuanced performances as Riley, who is in recovery from disordered eating, body dysmorphia, depression, and an obsession with her ex, and Ethan, who’s got a messy relationship with his father, an alcoholic. The movie explores heavy themes about beauty, bodies, social media, addiction, and love with thoughtful authenticity and surprising humor.

Liz Whittemore Unresolved trauma and body dysmorphia rear their ugly heads in Brittany Snow’s Parachute. Recently released from rehab and mandated to a 12-step program, Riley immediately falls back into old habits by making a new guy named Ethan her unhealthy focus. Parachute delves into the endless complexities of mental health and genuine human connection. The celebrity cameos are impressive, from Dave Bautista to Joel McHale and Gina Rodriguez to Jennifer Westfeldt. The film’s editing creates a deep emotional pull with flashbacks and still photographs from Ethan and Riley’s ever-evolving relationship. Thomas Mann gives Ethan a charm that feels effortless. He is the epitome of goodness. His chemistry with Courtney Eaton is organic. Eaton is a star. She wears her vulnerability like a badge of honor. Riley’s self-destructive behavior is her only means of control. It’s painful to watch for anyone familiar with that mindset. Parachute is raw. It is not pretty, but that is what makes it honest. Bravo to Snow, cast, and crew for a film that will undoubtedly hit Millennials and Gen Z square in the chest.

FILM DETAILS:

Title: Parachute

Director: Brittany Snow

Release Date: April 5, 2024 (limited theatrical US)

Running Time: 97 minutes

Language: English

Screenwriters: Becca Gleason and Brittany Snow

Distribution Company: Vertical Entertainment

AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Sandie Angulo Chen, Betsy Bozdech, Leslie Combemale, Nikki Fowler, Pam Grady, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Sherin Nicole, Liz Whittemore

Previous #MOTW Selections

Other Movies Opening This Week

Edited by Jennifer Merin

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).