She’s singing “dreams are stupid” but Cora dreams of making it with her music, or at least, she must have had a dream at one time, to take her from her home in Portland to LA. But in the 8 months she been there, eating tuna out of a can, the only gigs she can get are in half-empty cafés, and she seems to be proving her own lyrics to be true: “all who wander are totally fucking lost.” But although she may be lost, blundering her way through life, Cora does it with verve and flair, making impulsive, foolish, utterly wrong choices boldly. Bringing the protagonist of Hannah Pearl Utt’s Cora Bora to vivid life is Megan Stalter, who you may already love to hate as Kayla, the lazy, entitled, assistant on HBO’s series Hacks. Stalter shines as Cora, with a terrific sense of timing, shifting from one turbulent emotion to another in the blink of an eye, as she bounds from one misadventure to the next, never lacking a snappy comment, yet somehow giving the viewer a sense of the pain behind her eyes.
Cora has left a girlfriend back home, Justine (Jojo T. Gibbs), with whom she has an open relationship. But sensing that something is off, Cora decides to fly back to Portland, a trip which opens all the questions, tensions, and feelings. Especially when she walks into Justine’s house to find Riley (Ayden Mayeri) looking very domestically comfortable holding a laundry basket. Cora’s chaotic conduct is a blaring example of the unexamined life, and there’s the feeling that she’s keeping up this crazy pace so that she never has to stop and look at her own truth. Her antics make for very amusing viewing, whether she’s faking her way into a first-class seat, hooking up on tinder, or misplacing her dog. Not all the mishaps in Cora’s life are her own fault. Darrell Hammond is very funny as Cora’s dad, who has over-stepped some boundaries (funny ones) that have her righteously angry.
Utt’s film really gets it right on the blur of boundaries in relationships, that gray area where “don’t ask don’t tell” turns into “yeah, you probably should have said something about that.” I laughed as Cora stumbled and fell, and enjoyed her brash energy as she picked herself up and went crashing on. Stalter is supported by a terrific ensemble cast of characters, and Miya Folick’s music gives the film the sound of the road less traveled.
USA/2023/92 min/English with Hebrew subtitles
Director: Hannah Pearl Utt; Screenplay: Rhianon Jones; Cinematography: Senda Bonnet; Editor: Kent Kincannon; Music: Miya Folick; Cast: Megan Stalter, Manny Jacinto, Ayden Mayeri, Margaret Cho, Jojo T. Gibbs, Thomas Mann, Heather Elizabeth Morris
Cora Bora will be screened at TLVFEST on Saturday, December 30th – tickets are available on the TLVFEST website.