This film was viewed at the 49th Seattle International Film Festival
Synopsis: Set in the world of wealthy party life of Aspen, Ivy must navigate her parents divorce, along with turmoil amongst her friends, to find her place in the world.
Who knew that growing up in Aspen would be such a pain in the ass? Being an avid skier I always assumed it was a utopic situation with minimal downsides. Except the slopes of course.
Then again, I'm not a biracial, adopted teenage girl growing up there whose parents are going through a contentious divorce. That's exactly what's happening to Ivy Reid (Sarah Jeffery) at the start of the film, Year of the Fox.
Inspired by writer Eliza Flug's own upbringing in Aspen, this dramatized version tells a rather brilliant story of growing up amidst wealth and changing power dynamics, all while trying to discover your true self.
The film explores a lot of interesting power dynamics across our characters, but one of the immediate ones is between Ivy's divorcing parents Huxley (Jake Weber) and Paulene (Jane Adams). It's apparent that these two parents have fallen out of love, leading to divorce, but they still have to jockey for their position, and affection, within Ivy's mind. Huxley, an extraordinarily wealthy business owner, is a clear prescriber to the ideology of catching more flies with honey instead of vinegar by showering Ivy with affection and gifts. Meanwhile, all of these physical offerings of parental love contain jagged edges of deception, begging Ivy to not listen to her mother and the picture she'll inevitably try to paint about him. Paulene takes a much more passive approach, trying to appeal to Ivy's childhood passions by taking her ice skating and cheering her on. This is our first real teeter totter of power we see in Ivy's life. Of course, what makes it even more difficult is how Ivy is trying to discover who she is as an individual and as a woman. An ever so difficult task, especially when your parents are pulling you apart and asking to choose sides.
Outside of her parents, Ivy also encounters more sinister scenarios of power struggles involving the power of sex and sexuality across between her friends and the various wealthy aristocrats of Aspen. As her friends push her to "grow up" and learn how to be a woman, by their definition, Ivy sees first hand the downsides to a power struggle rooted in sex.
Among all of these character dynamics, the beauty in Flug's story is how someone feeling misplaced and without any sense of belonging is able to maneuver around all these pitfalls. Social and sexual pressures abound are attempting to mold Ivy into whatever they see fit, but she remains steadfast and hopeful in her own resilience. Things come to a boil in the end when she finally sees her father for who he is, but Ivy's response is how you know she's forging her own path in the world. After her father makes her sign away interest in his company to become a "real member of the family," it's clear that Ivy understands he doesn't actually have her best interest in mind. She sees through his facade of gifts, extravagance, and his jockeying for power much like every other old fart in Aspen that's been telling her who she's supposed to be.
A lot of the success of the film hinges on Jeffery's performance as Ivy. She delivers a nuanced, subtle performance for the first two acts, and brings it home when emotions reach the apex in the third act - putting a stamp on a mighty fine acting display. Outside of Jeffery the performances are steady enough and Flug's writing can be a bit inconsistent. I'm not completely sold on the whole metaphor of the fox, it being an omen of change, as it isn't expounded upon in a literal or figurative way too much. I've also mentioned before in my review of The Mattachine Family that the narration voice over can get tired quickly, but Flug's writing and Jeffery's delivery keeps it a tad more fresh and keeps your attention while providing more internal information on Ivy's character.
What ties everything together is Megan Grifitths' steady direction and clear vision. Her ability to tie in all of these characters and abstract ideas of power struggles revolving around a young woman finding herself is fascinating to watch unfold.
Digging into the fox metaphor a little more, it's clear that a fox themed beer is the only appropriate move here. Thus we have lucked out because our wonderful Reuben's Brews here in Seattle has provided us with a timely limited edition beer called Little Fox!
Little Fox is a red ale, inspired by a German Altbier, has a great dark amber color combined with a silky caramel-esque aroma. With flavors of that same caramel along with some dark cherries and a touch of chocolate the Little Fox is a sumptuous little treat. It's clean, slightly bitter to offset the initial sweetness yet balanced in a fine drinkable way. I can imagine drinking this while enjoying the mountains of Aspen in winter, and hopefully avoiding the parasitic geriatrics that Ivy had to dodge.