Vancouver International Film Festival runs from September 28 – October 13, 2017. Screening films from more than 70 countries on nine screens, VIFF’s program includes the pick of the world’s top film fests and many undiscovered gems.
Overview: Polite Maggie learns to bring out her alter-ego Vanilla the Killer thanks to one cool girl named Tiger. FOGMA GmbH; 2017; Not Rated; 90 minutes.
Girl Power: Maggie (Maria Dragus)—or, Vanilla the Killer as she’ll soon become known—is a bit of a wet noodle. It’s not her fault; she’s just become a relative doormat due to a lack of confidence and assertiveness. We meet her as she’s failing police academy, sent to rent-a-cop training, and having her parking spot stolen. She’s led around and seduced by a skeezy jock from the police academy who’s high on his newfound authority and who causes a constant problem whenever he enters the frame.
Suddenly her ferocious fairy godmother appears. It’s Tiger (Ella Rumpf) and she’s here to teach Maggie how to stand up for herself if she has to commit a few crimes to do it. That’s not to say she hasn’t already perfected her methods. She commits crimes every day, but she has a strict personal moral code that she follows in doing so. Most of the time, she does what she does to survive. Tiger seems to appear out of thin air when she’s most needed; to shoplift some cookies, kick off someone’s side mirror or beat the shit out of a group of rapists with a baseball bat.
After watching Ella Rumpf devour every scene in last year’s Raw, it’s an absolute delight she’s been given the chance to go as hard as she does in Tiger Girl. Rumpf embodies the easy-going tough girl from her intimidating posture and totally touchable unkempt hair to her more violent outbursts and funloving escapades. She seems tremendously fun to hang around, at least for a little while. After christening her Vanilla the Killer, she takes Maggie as her protege and the two start to get into a little bit of trouble.
Harsh Reality: Tiger lives outside of the law and outside of its social benefits, hunkering down in a parked van or in the dirty attic of a shady apartment building with her two often-naked guy friends. They too are just trying to get by, but dip into the drug game in order to survive. Tiger doesn’t approve, and she plays into a mothering role by providing for the two and nonchalantly worrying about their whereabouts and personal debts. It’s not an easy life but it’s fun and she’s free, and that’s what’s most important to Tiger. She teaches Vanilla that politeness is a form of violence against oneself and encourages her to embrace her more anarchist ways.
Vanilla and Tiger’s escapades are relatively harmless at first, petty theft and intimidation, but once Vanilla gets a taste of blood she can’t seem to stop herself. Her behaviour begins to leak into her training, and her talking back in class gets her and her classmates into serious trouble before long. Before she’s able to process it, Tiger will lose control of her protege and find herself alone having to confront her feelings and her lifestyle. It’s not pretty, but we have no doubt she’ll survive.
As Vanilla, Maria Dragus is just fine. She’s believable at first as the polite, mousy girl, and it’s easy to cheer her on as she grows her spine. But she lacks a charisma that’s needed for the role as it develops, and, much like the plot, it’s even easier to lose interest in her. Her character development turns her into a brat with no direction, and leaves her pointed onto towards darkness as it ends just as abruptly as the film. We can only assume that Vanilla will eventually lose everything because she has abandoned all moral code. Even when faced with the truth that her actions won’t even things out (that she was dealt too many blows in life and now wants to deal them back) does nothing to change her. She is set firmly upon her path but without Tiger by her side it is slow moving and never compelling.
Overall: Jakob Lass’s Tiger Girl does its best to go wild. One star cast member elevates it from banality at its best, but it suffers when it takes the focus off of her. There’s a palpable sense of urgency to the entire film that’s emphasized in hand cam action and quick flashbacks to awkward moments. It boasts a fun soundtrack that feeds into its most frenzied moments, and the movie generally offers a good time, even if there is little resolution or direction.
Featured Image: Constantin Film