The unjust dearth of Sapphic cinema helps explain, more than excuse, the desperate “Concussion,” a head injury of a film in which a middle-aged suburban femme with a frigid wife and a bump on the noggin starts turning tricks for a distaff clientele at $800 a pop. That this queer “Belle de Jour” favors style over substance without really getting down and dirty befits its shrewd bid to titillate an aud that scratches itches by mouse click — which is to say that the Radius-TWC pickup stands to score almost exclusively via VOD.Acquitting herself capably in a lead role that strips her bare in more ways than one, Robin Weigert (HBO’s “Deadwood”) proves worthy of a future in features, whereas first-time writer-director Stacie Passon mainly exposes her background in commercials. To the tune of David Bowie’s “Oh! You Pretty Things,” Passon opens the pic in a health club with well-off women literally spinning their wheels — suggesting, in the most obvious manner, the monotony of life for Weigert’s toned Abby and her rarefied clique. Inspired, it seems, by being hit in the head with her son’s baseball, fortyish Abby begins yearning to grow beyond housewifely duties in the picture-perfect home she shares with high-powered lawyer Kate (Julie Fain Lawrence) and their kids. But remodeling a Manhattan loft isn’t enough to turn her on, so it’s lucky for Abby that her handyman partner Justin (Johnny Tchaikovsky) works part-time as a pimp, an absurd implausibility that Passon has the nerve to play straight. After trying her hand as a paying customer in the first of several chaste sex scenes, Abby decides to take Justin up on his casual offer to find her some clients. Billing herself as Eleanor, Abby, who prefers to meet interested parties for coffee first, ends up providing her tasteful services to the likes of a plus-size college student; an initially gruff older dame who for some reason becomes a repeat customer; and, from her own tony ‘hood, the sexy Sam (Maggie Siff). Shot as if they were ads for high-thread-count bed sheets, the pic’s talky afternoon delights remain more flowery than erotic, and because the pic doesn’t stretch the characters dramatically, the sole intrigue of the movie becomes whether and how Kate will get wind of what her wife has really been doing in the city. Tech credits are refined across the board, but the chief commodity of “Concussion” is Weigert, who remains an intelligent screen presence even in stupid scenes, such as one in which Abby treats her midlife crisis in a truly shocking manner — by sampling fast food from a drive-thru.
A Radius-TWC release of a Razorwire Films, Group Films production. Produced by Rose Troche. Executive producers, Cliff Chenfeld, Anthony Cupo. Directed, written by Stacie Passon.
Camera (color, HD, widescreen), David Kruta; editor, Anthony Cupo; music, Barb Morrison; music supervisor, Brooke Primont; production designer, Lisa Myers; art director, Kevin P. O'Donnell; costume designer, Jennifer K. Bentley; sound, Josh Allen, Chuck Brownly, Olaitan Agueh; sound designer, Jacob Ribicoff; assistant director, Cassandra Santiago; casting, Anne Davison. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 19, 2013. Running time: 96 MIN.
Robin Weigert, Maggie Siff, Daniel London, Ben Shenkman, Johnny Tchaikovsky, Julie Fain Lawrence, Janel Moloney, Emily Kinney, Laila Robins.