Her mom sees Madeline as fragile but the director of her theater group sees her as a raw talent with a troubled history, to be exploited for art.
Madeline got the part! She’s going to play the lead in a theater piece! Except the lead wears sweatpants like Madeline’s. And has a cat like Madeline’s. And is holding a steaming hot iron next to her mother’s face—like Madeline is. Madeline (newcomer Helena Howard) has become an integral part of a prestigious physical theater troupe. When the workshop’s ambitious director (Molly Parker) pushes the teenager to weave her rich interior world and troubled history with her mother (Miranda July) into their collective art, the lines between performance and reality begin to blur. The resulting battle between imagination and appropriation rips out of the rehearsal space and through all three women’s lives. Writer/director Josephine Decker utilizes a welcome expressionistic approach that imbues her subjects with a vibrant sense of urgency. Anchored by a virtuoso performance from newcomer Helena Howard, whose powerful screen presence commands attention, Decker’s film displays a rare sensitivity for capturing the messy struggles of discovering a sense of one’s self that defies easy narrative categorization.