Mouthpiece (2018) by Patricia Rozema
Review by Lydia Creech
This is the sort of independent filmmaking that festivals can make or break. Adapted from a two-woman play (and starring the two woman playwrights), Mouthpiece is about a woman struggling to write her mother’s eulogy. Norah Sadava and Amy Nostbakken share the role of Cassandra, which threw me off a little at first. It was surreal watching the two women walk in step or apply moisturizer to each other’s faces or share a bath (thought process before catching on: oh, they’re bffs! oh, they’re… girlfriends? siiiisters? Why isn’t anyone reacting. OH.).
As a central metaphor, the shared-role works wonderfully, literally giving a voice and face to the conflicting thoughts and feelings we have in all of us. We’re never clued in on which is the “real” Cassandra (the credits list them as “Tall Cassandra” and “Short Cassandra”), because, no matter how opposed, all the reactions she has to grief are authentic and understandable. It also resists being pat with the duo-personality thing--one Cassandra isn’t pigeonholed into being the “angry one” or “rational one” or “sad one”--they switch traits and each seem fully developed. The conceit also lends itself to moments of dry humor, such as the different ways the two react to a catcaller or deal with a nylon saleslady.
Most importantly, it gets at how women are multifaceted--something Cassandra finds the hardest to adequately capture about her mother and their relationship. It sounds oversimple--women are people, people are complex--but this is something valuable female filmmakers bring to the screen, and I’m glad I caught this one!