Written and directed by Cade Thomas, naïve and trusting Maggie is down on her luck, staying with her big brother Michael, and learns of a Ribbon Dancing Competition at the local mall, a quick way to make some money and all she needs is a partner. Lucky for her, the homeless woman who lives in the mall parking lot is a professional dancer and is willing to help her out. Starring: Joseph Beard, Matthew Brown, Hannah Gray and Debbi Tucker.
Ribbon has a very classically American sense of humour, it’s overt, silly and it delivers its lines almost as if there should be a studio clapping as they hit the punch line. It’s not necessarily inaccessible to wider audiences but it is a specific comedic style that will work better for some than others. The writing plays into that age-old theme of ridiculous situations and an excess of trust, it doesn’t go to an extreme of over the top but it does always keep that in its back pocket. It does ask that relevant question of how much you should trust people and as cynical as the world can be, sometimes that works in your favour. With the exception of the choice of ribbon dancing, there’s nothing too original about the story but it has the best of intentions and it’s extremely playful. It does become overly transparent of just how hard it’s trying to have fun which makes it slightly less enjoyable but again, it has the right idea.
The direction feels like a homage to the 1980s, it’s quite cheesy and close-up. The handheld style proves fairly shaky at times, it could use some sharpening up but at the same time it gives itself a very typically indie, home-made feel. At times it’s too close and feels like it’s restricting itself, a few shots needed to give a bit more room to breathe and space for the actors to move around without getting out of the shot.
Its performances follow the notes that the rest of the film sets and go fairly over the top, particularly from Hannah Gray’s Maggie. Her character to begin with is intensely naïve and optimistic so the tone does suit the personality she’s going for but at the same time it does push into the realm of grating. Joseph Beard’s Michael is a typical cynic, working man, keeping his head down, there isn’t a huge personality there and his attempts at sarcasm can be on the nose but it’s a consistent performance. Brown and Tucker are playing the oddballs of the film here and they tick all the boxes, they’re strange and unusual. Tucker in particular adds a nice energy as Pearl, it’s not entirely unpredictable but her steadfast and confident attitude is fun to watch.
Ribbon is the type of film where you can see the care and intentions that went into it, even if its style doesn’t work for you. How well it works will depend on your sense of humour, it’s very transparent and is pushing for the punch line a little too hard but at the same time you can tell that it’s simply trying to have fun. Not everything works and it’s not throwing too much at you that feels unique but it has that classic indie spirit.