One great thing about film festivals is discovering breakthrough talent. One actress who I haven’t seen act before that certainly caught my eye during the Tribeca Film Festival was Spanish actress Laia Costa. She may have made her real breakthrough with the German crime thriller Victoria. But now, it looks like she’s about to catch the attention of American moviegoers with the films she has lined up. Two of them are films that premiered at Tribeca: Duck Butter and Maine. Even if neither film fully delivers, the best thing about each film is Costa’s tremendous acting.
In the sensual romantic comedy Duck Butter, Laia Costa plays Sergio, a woman who meets a struggling actress at a lesbian club named Naima played by Alia Shawkat. Even though they just met, they still decide to undergo the ups and downs of a relationship for a whole day, having sex each hour in the process. Both Costa and Shawkat have intoxicating chemistry that makes the film worth watching. However, despite the film’s off-kilter nature, it still is a tad sluggish in terms of its pacing. Also, even though the story is intentionally simplistic, it still doesn’t have much payoff by the end.
Sadly, Maine isn’t a whole lot better. Maine does offer a beautiful look at the New England wilderness that makes up for a lack of great storytelling. But it still feels rather empty. The film is mainly about two hikers named Bluebird and Lake, played by Costa and Thomas Mann, respectively, looking for connection in the midst of their hiking trail. They don’t really know much about each other and they aren’t given a whole lot of backstory. The one thing we know about Bluebird is that she is married and is unsure about having children. However, Costa’s expressive face gives Bluebird more of a backstory than the script does. Bluebird says how she doesn’t mind being alone but her eyes seem to tell us otherwise. She is fiercely independent yet is willing express her feelings for the kind stranger she is with. Thanks to the strength of Costa’s performance, it feels like we know what kind of person Bluebird is even if we know nothing about her at all. Also, the scenic yet often too meditative picture wouldn’t be as watchable without her star power.
Bluebird is also a completely different character from Duck Butter’s Sergio. Sergio is an extroverted wildcard willing to try anything while Bluebird is more introverted. But the fact that they’re so different is a testament to Costa’s tremendous acting ability. She may possess recognizable movie star charisma but she’s still able to transcend from playing one type of character to another with masterful subtlety.
Laia Costa has definite star potential and here’s hoping that she gets more projects that are able to match her tremendous talent.