Unlikely to raise spirits or box office, “Levitation” is a grim, convoluted saga of identity and belonging. An ill-fitting combination of melodrama and magic realism, the indie effort will have a decidedly difficult time in the theatrical arena. In fact, pic’s commercial prospects are lean on all fronts.
Acey (Sarah Paulson) is a rudderless young woman who discovers she’s pregnant following a night of anonymous sex. Hoping to make some sense of her situation, she tracks down her estranged mother, Anna (Ann Magnuson), who offers no solace or compassion. Worse, Acey’s told that she was adopted and the whereabouts of her biological mother are unknown.
But even before the question of blood ties arises, the film has set its protagonist on a mysterious quest. Compelled by some unseen force to go to the ocean, she encounters a fisherman named Bob (Jeremy London) who may or may not be a figment of her imagination — he continues to resurface throughout the film. More corporeal is Downbeat (Ernie Hudson), a latenight disc jockey who takes a fatherly interest in her.
The search for one’s biological roots has become a staple of recent TV and theatrical features. Writer-director Scott D. Goldstein’s twist on the familiar coming-of-age theme is to inject a surreal quality. But that framework proves leaden because helmer’s grasp of the fantastical is fraught with psychobabble and ominous, somber voices. Missing is a quality of wonder and discovery that could have given the trek a vital momentum.
The filmmaker also dilutes the potency of the material by introducing a secondary story, involving Downbeat, that threatens to dominate the central drama. The two narrative threads — regarding Acey’s confrontation with her birth mother (also played by Magnuson) and the deejay’s violent encounter with a state trooper — unwind simultaneously. The crosscutting diminishes the impact of each of the resolutions.
Goldstein has attracted a strong cast, but Paulson, Hudson and Magnuson are not ably supported by the script. There’s a schizophrenic quality to the direction that’s unsettling — long stretches of attention to minute detail are juxtaposed with fuzzy metaphors about the fear of abandonment.
Physical production credits have a nice pro look, and Leonard Rosenman’s score is a major enhancement to the tone of the pic. Finally, it seems more than coincidental that Acey’s ability to float at will is both unpredictable and cannot be controlled. In the filmmaker’s road guide, it carries a major fine as an unmoving violation