There are many wonderful things about the film Bare, but what hits you right off the bat is how simply beautiful it is to look at. Technicolor candy coated neon greens, bright blues, majestic magentas that pulse with life in one scene are juxtaposed against the arid, muted landscapes of rural Nevada in the next. There were so many moments that I wanted to freeze the frame and just bask in the beauty of what I was seeing; moments where a character is a tiny figure against the backdrop of the Nevada mountains, or peering from behind a curtain of rainbow beads at a gentlemen’s club, are remarkably stunning—not a shot out of place, not a vista wasted. Bare may be writer/director Natalia Leite‘s debut feature film, but it speaks volumes about her talent and promises many great things to come.
Bare stars Glee‘s Dianna Agron as Sarah, a young woman from a dusty, small town who struggles to find her place pretty much anywhere. Jobs are scarce and she bounces around from low paying job to low paying job, in between hanging out with her longtime best friend and her handsome but boorish boyfriend. She’s bored and lonely, but resigned in a way to this life. When a mysterious stranger shows up at her only refuge (her late father’s abandoned second hand store) it changes everything for Sarah.
I can’t speak highly enough of Dianna Agron, whose haunting performance stays with you long after you leave the theatre. In Glee, Agron was criminally underused, and there hasn’t been a film or television role that has truly allowed the actress to shine to her full potential. But in Bare, her understated style is refreshing and quite stunning to behold. Beneath Agron’s still face and soft eyes, rages a tempest. Always observing, her character may glide through life like a ghost, but she never misses a beat. She’s a smart actress who allows reaction to drive her, rather than being the impetus. Less of a love story than a coming of age journey, make no mistake, this film is all Agron’s. I also think it’s a game changer for the actress who is still very early in her career.
So, yes, much has been made about the fact that Dianne Agron also has her first nude scenes in Bare. However, nothing about these scenes is gratuitous. The nudity, the “bareness” that Sarah experiences, unlocks something inside of her, frees her in a way, and takes place mainly in the context of a revelatory experience which I won’t spoil for you.
The one thing that I struggled with in Bare, was the performance by Paz de la Huerta who plays Sarah’s love interest, Pepper. While Agron’s performance is so real, nuanced and focused, Paz de la Huerta’s is so broad that it distracts from their interactions. Pepper is supposed to be wild and out there, it’s one of the reasons that Sarah is drawn to her, but she comes across at times as one dimensional. Agron makes it work on her end, and when she and de la Huerta connect, it’s really spectacular, but I wanted more of those moments. De la Huerta has the chops, but for some reason she is aimless in this film.
The music, the cinematography, the editing and art direction are all spot on, making this small indie film feel so much bigger. Natalia’s Purple Milk production company co-founder Alexandra Roxo (who you may also know from the web series Be Here Nowish) even appears in a small role as a spunky stripper with big dreams and an even bigger cocaine addition. With Bare under their belt, Natalia Leite and Alexandra Roxo have proven themselves to be forces to be reckoned with. Knowing that two queer women are making serious waves and creating gorgeous art, is enough to bring a smile to my face.