Saturday, September 23, 2017

Fantastic Fest ’17: Tiger Girl

This could be awkward. Tiger and “Vanilla the Killer” are all about laying smack-downs on grabby, harassing men. Devin Faraci, the social justice warrior accused of sexual assault is allegedly exactly the kind of guy they are out to punish. Yet, their film will be screening against a background of noise and controversy generated by news the festival organization tried to quietly slip Faraci back into the organization through the back door. It is fair to say people were not happy. Tiger and Vanilla would know how to handle this problem, but getting their own lives together is an entirely different matter in Jakob Lass’s Tiger Girl (trailer here), which screens during the 2017 Fantastic Fest.

Vanilla wanted to be a cop, but her first attempt at the physical exam ended badly. While waiting to re-apply, she signs on as a trainee with a well-equipped security firm. She is still pretty mousy, so she needs to be saved from the cloddish Theo (a successful police academy applicant), whether she admits it or not. Fortunately, Tiger is on the scene, thanks to a borrowed taxi cab. Around the second time Tiger saves her from a thuggish punk, Vanilla starts to realize this could be the start of an empowering friendship.

Soon, Vanilla snags a security uniform for Tiger, which gives them a virtual license to harass yuppies and misogynists. Vanilla practically idolizes Tiger, so it hurts when her two squat-mates-slash-lovers refuse to accept her. Suddenly, Vanilla is in no mood to accept perceived slights, spurring her to sabotage her somewhat promising security career. Just as she starts escalating her violent antics, Tiger begins to rethink her anti-social behavior.

Frankly, Tiger Girl could have been a challenging film about growing up and accepting the benefits of the social contract, but it is undone by its problematic conclusion. For the sake of crowd-pleasing, Lass more or less accepts Vanilla’s reckless attacks on innocent passersby.

Regardless, it is quite a showcase for the ferocious talents of Ella Rumpf, who previously made quite an impression as the older cannibal sister in Raw. As the tough but vulnerable Tiger, she physically resembles a young Kristen Stewart, but her command of her craft is much more advanced. She truly commands the screen. Obviously, Vanilla has to be meeker and more impressionable, but the extreme disparity between the fiery Rumpf and the Maria Dragus’s hollow-on-the-inside Vanilla hardly seems unfair.

There are several fight scenes interspersed throughout Tiger Girl, which is presumably why it was selected by both Fantasia and Fantastic Fest. However, fans will be disappointed Lass cuts away from a fight with a high-kicking martial arts-trained gallerist, played by the striking (in both meanings of the word) Helga Wretman. Ultimately, it does not add up to as much as Lass hoped, but it certainly announces Rumpf as a major talent to contend with. Earning a qualified recommendation, Tiger Girl should be quite an ironic screening experience when it plays tomorrow (9/24) and Monday (9/25) at this year’s Fantastic Fest.