The process of writing music can be a difficult one. I can’t relate, but what I can relate to is writers’ block. It can be maddening, whether you’re staring at a blank sheet of paper for hours or doing everything you can to avoid that staring. This is one of the core components of Love Spreads, a film about a band that heads to a remote studio to write and record their sophomore album. Of course, it’s hard to record anything when your lead singer and songwriter doesn’t can’t bring herself to write.
I am not going to mince words here: I did not connect with this film. It’s a shame, though, because I think there is a lot of potential within it. Alia Shawkat plays Kelly, the lead singer of Glass Heart, an all-girl rock band. It’s clear from the get-go that after a long tour (and perhaps the pressure of a successful first album), the band is not in a good place, constantly nipping at each other at every turn. Once they get to the studio, this conflict comes to a head almost immediately when Kelly has nothing to record, but bandmate Alice does.
Shawkat does a lot with a little in the film, walking a fine line between relatable and unlikable, as Kelly summarily dismisses any form of collaboration with the rest of the band. Band manager Mark (Nick Helm) quickly arranges for Alice to be replaced by Patricia (Eiza González), which throws Kelly for a loop not only because the permanently upbeat and self-assured Patricia seems to be her polar opposite, but at the speed and ease with which it happens, too.
For their parts, both Helm and González turn in excellent performances as well. Helm offers most of the films few laughs as the browbeaten band manager, and González plays Patricia with exactly the believable ease that the character requires (and that her filmography so far has led you to believe she would).
The issue here is that through the film, I was never really sure who I was supposed to be rooting for or who I was even supposed to like. The film seems to be aiming at themes of art as struggle and control vs collaboration, but at the end of the film, I didn’t feel any resolution, and for a film billed as a comedy, it features very few laughs.
Love Spreads is not a film I connected with but it does feature a few excellent performances. If you’re already a fan of Shawkat or González then it’s definitely worth a look. If you’re not, well, I leave that choice up to you.
Love Spreads played as part of Tribeca Film Festival.
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