Director: Natalia Leite
Cast: Dianna Agron, Paz de la Huerta, Chris Zylka
Watch Bare online in the UK: iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play
Every month, we highlight films directed by women on Netflix UK. We call it Women on Netflix.
The basic plot to Bare doesn’t seem too original at first glance: a naive small town girl is led down a rebellious path by a mysterious newcomer from out of town. However, in this case, the naive protagonist is Sarah (Glee’s Dianna Agron), who is struggling to hold down a job at the local supermarket and prefers to sleep in her family’s antique store, and the mysterious newcomer is Pepper (Paz de la Huerta), who supplies drugs to the workers at the town’s strip club and has a penchant for animal documentaries. Despite Sarah’s boyfriend (Chris Zylka), the two seem to fall for each other fast; Sarah begins working at the strip club to get closer to Pepper and Pepper introduces her to a new world, full of scamming unwitting gamblers, spontaneous trips to the dessert and hard drug use.
Although Sarah and her life seem to be jumping from one extreme to the next, her story is much more universal than it would first appear. She’s really just a young woman who is desperate to get out of her small town, desperate to do something with her life, desperate for more than the hand she has been dealt. Agron does an excellent job of capturing her initial wide-eyed, small town innocence and quiet discontent and performs her spiral off the rails with precision – the wilder Sarah gets the more controlled Agron’s performance becomes. Paz de la Huerta completely immerses herself in the character of Pepper and refuses to play her as likeable, instead portraying her as the flawed person she is. Whereas Agron manages to keep you constantly rooting for Sarah, de la Huerta is unable to do the same with Pepper; you never quite know if you want to trust her, never quite believe she is going to do the right thing, or even just do the things she says she is going to do.
There are many moments during Bare when it could begin to feel exploitative, between the scenes at the strip club and the moment when Sarah and Pepper’s relationship becomes sexual – it would be easy for the film to start feeling as sleazy as the club’s clientele. But director Leite takes a delicate approach, ensuring that while the scenes are suitably graphic they never feel voyeuristic. The strippers are also depicted in a refreshingly human light; although flawed they still feel like actual people rather than just nameless warnings of what’s at the end of the path Sarah is venturing down.
Bare looks beautiful, and the performances are strong, but the film itself fails to leave an impact. The ambiguous ending feels anti-climatic following the dramatics of the earlier acts and the lack of resolution makes Sarah’s journey feel almost pointless. Although the characters may stay with you after the end credits, the film itself unfortunately fails to leave much of a lasting impression.