SOUND OF MY VOICE
Actress/screenwriter Britt Marling is well on her way to becoming the It Girl of head-scratching hipster sci-fi.
Following last year's cult curiosity "Another Earth," she's back as star and co-writer of this exploration of time travel, groupthink and narrative discontinuity. Marling plays Maggie, a self-proclaimed time traveler who presides over a group of acolytes meeting in a nondescript beige California ranch house. Breathing from an oxygen tank, she explains that she has traveled back from 2054 to prevent a catastrophe. White-robed followers, sitting cross-legged in a circle, nod harmoniously. "Let go of you, become the group," she intones with smug smiling-guru serenity.
New recruits Peter (Christopher Denham) and his girlfriend Lorna (Nicole Vicius) surreptitiously film the meetings to expose the group "before those people kill themselves." Maggie's claims about the future leave plenty of room for doubt, but if she's telling the truth, the undercover couple's disclosure could thwart her rescue mission.
The script, co-written by director Zal Batmanglij, aims to create suspense (and cover gaping plot holes) through portentous blunt cutaways to parallel story lines. One concerns a hypersensitive 8-year-old girl (Avery Kristen Pohl) at the school where Peter teaches, another follows a mystery woman claiming to be a government agent. Marling lacks the commanding magnetism that made John Hawkes such a credible cult leader in last year's similarly themed, far superior "Martha Marcy May Marlene." Both films end without closure. "Martha's" hit with a bang; "Sound of My Voice" trails off with a "meh."
MANSOMEA nonfiction essay film on manscaping, metrosexuality and masculinity, "Mansome" explores the rise of male personal grooming.
Director Morgan Spurlock ("The Greatest Movie Ever Sold") visits a high-end toupee maker, competitive beard-growing champions, corner barbershops and elegant hair salons to document the lengths to which men will pursue their ideal of beauty.
Spurlock doesn't uncover many earthshaking insights, though fans of chest-shaving and eyebrow-threading will find many scenes to enjoy. The film's highlight is the snappy banter provided by the talking-head comics who appear alongside the beauty professionals. "You try to look good," explains Judd Apatow, "so the woman doesn't run away." Paul Rudd yearns for the good old days of Aqua Velva and Skin Bracer, and Will Arnett and Jason Bateman enjoy a bromantic day of facials, massage and manicures at a Los Angeles spa. "What do you think works best with my face?" asks Bateman as they primp at a double mirror. "A balaclava" comes the reply.