Catherine (Caitlin Simpson) and Maxie (Mischa Dani Goodman) are polar opposite step-sisters who wake in the woods after a debaucherous bachelorette party the night before Catherine's wedding. The buttoned-up and responsible Catherine is determined to do whatever it takes to get to her wedding on time, though she's hindered by her wild-child counterpart who uses up the last bar of cell phone power to check Instagram and who is also nursing a bit of a grudge since Catherine has been spending all her time with her soon to be husband. Lost in the woods of Vermont for reasons that are wisely never completely explained, the two stumble upon a nudist retreat and both have to overcome their differences and each other if this day's going to have a happy ending.
Described as a "womance comedy short," Unbridaled is a frequently hilarious and engaging short film that had its world premiere at Dances with Films and has picked up prizes at Bridgeport Film Festival (Best Actress - both Goodman and Simpson), Austin Comedy Film Festival (Best Ensemble), and Atlanta ShortsFest (Best Ensemble).
In case you haven't caught on, this is one terrific ensemble.
Directed by Chelsea B. Lockie off of Thom Harp's script, Unbridaled humorously tackles the pressures, especially on women, to settle down and, I'd dare say it, to actually just plain settle. Yet, amidst this message also exists an empowering film that serves up equally vital reminders of the power of friendship, sisterhood, forgiveness, and naked butts.
I mean, seriously. If you can't handle naked butts, don't watch this film. There's butts. Lots of butts.
Reportedly heading toward a feature film, Unbridaled isn't just a hilarious film but an endearing one. Within moments, we grow to care as much about the buttoned-up Catherine as we do the wildchild Maxie. They are different in a myriad of ways, but in a myriad of ways we will learn they really aren't that different. As much as I laughed often throughout Unbridaled, it was a moment in the film when Catherine discovers a certain document that completely won me over. It's in this moment that Simpson's Catherine wears a look that clicks the film into an emotional honesty that affirms that "Yes, all of this is really funny!" and "Yes, all of this really matters!"
Indeed, both are true.
Simpson is a complete joy as Catherine, combining fierce comic timing with a sort of awkward vulnerability that makes you laugh and makes you feel something special about this woman who may or may not be marrying for the right reasons but who deep down is a remarkable woman and not fully in touch with that.
In different ways, the same is true for Mischa Dani Goodman's take on Maxie, who at first seems to be such a wildchild that we stereotype her into being the irresponsible one. Goodman, however, holds onto us and makes us see Maxie as more than just that impulsivity and free spirit. Goodman absolutely nails the balance between comedy and drama, Maxie's free spirit being essential to how the story unfolds and everything that happens.
While all of this may make it sound like Unbridaled is rather serious, rest assured that Lockie keeps things light and is as quick with spot-on nudity humor as she is with integrating a deeper meaning into a rather bawdy and beautiful little short film. The film's ensemble cast is terrific including an absolutely delightful Steven Michael Pinsonnault as Stephen the Naturist and Jason Nadal as the Security Guard among others. Truthfully, if there's a flaw in the film it's that we simply don't get enough time with these characters and a feature film sounds like a genius idea as I definitely wanted more time with the comedy dynamite duo of Caitlin Simpson and Mischa Dani Goodman.
Production credits are solid throughout Unbridaled including John Blackwood's top-notch lensing, Bianca Puorto's imaginative production design, and Kristi Fullerton's nicely complementary original score for the film.
Sweet and also sincere, Unbridaled is a goofy little charmer with a good heart, a lot of laughs, and adorably naked butts.
What else could you want?
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic