In the post-2000s, there has been quite an affinity for the throwback style films or 1970s exploitation style film that ranges from bonafide hits to cult favorites. It can be said that Quentin Tarantino has done this for a major part of his career, starting with Jackie Brown which saw blaxploitation star Pam Grier in the main role, rejuvenating her career. These elements are also evident in both Kill Bill films as well as the obvious Django Unchained, which uses this against a spaghetti western backdrop. In comedy, Black Dynamite was an underground hit with Michael Jai White that spawned an Adult Swim show and a comic book. Well, writer and director Anna Hiller wanted in on this action, bringing a female empowered witch magic to the big screen in The Love Witch.
The film follows Elaine, a vexingly beautiful woman leaving a bad marriage on her way to starting new life in a small town. Powerful in her allure, Elaine has dark secrets and an ability to woo any man she sets her eyes on, something that may have led to the death of her previous husband. Drawing power from her seductive ability, she enchants any woman that comes across her path as well, giving them a reinvigorated confidence but it becomes increasingly apparent that Elaine is only out for herself and her endgame is the ultimate in womanly power, if only the right mate would stay alive and under her spell.
Hiller dons many hats on this film besides writing it and being behind the camera, as she is also the editor, music composer and costume and production designer and all of this she nails in a ridiculous way as the kitschiness of The Love Witch is it’s best attribute. Had this just been a short jaunt of a film, this movie would be something destined for cult status but it manages to crawl along, reusing the same story tropes, bring you into a confusing circle as Elaine nets man after man before one gets wise enough to try and take her on. As stunning as the film is to look at and as many, I hope, intentionally funny dialogue and situations arise in this film, it was never enough to have me fully on board.
Now, I must be clear that the feminist intentions in this film, depicting women as all powerful witches in control of their own destinies, was not the problem for me and I actually applaud Anna Hiller for bringing a story with this message. I really just felt that the style and genre that the film tried to exist in was stretched far too thin and had an unsatisfying and completely underselling resolution. Also, if your film is taking on a seventies style mystique, maybe having a character talk on a smartphone in the third act out of nowhere can come off a little jarring, although the new model of a BMW appears, but I just wrote that off as being part of the low budget nature. The Love Witch is a film that you feel is constantly winking at the audience but it’s just missing either a gory nudge or a full fourth wall break. 2/5