In life, sometimes it is easier to find ways to cope than to thrive. Especially when you think you’re alone and that all you need is a simple fix to make things better. Something which is hardly true for many.
Trigger Warning(s): Self-Harm & Rape
Characters & Story
For many years Renee (Kat Dennings) has used many different drugs to cope with things which have happened in her life. Also, she took to cutting when drugs weren’t easily available. However, one day she seeks out her old friends Dylan (Mark Saul) and Jessie (Juliana Harkavy) for help and, to her surprise, she gets it. Thus leading us on a journey in which she seeks to find a way to not necessarily find normalcy, but some way to get through life which doesn’t increase the burden of living.
One thing I have learned when it comes to Kat Dennings is that her voice and look are so distinct that I will never get lost in her character. However, unlike many actors who just unable to fully transform into someone else, she has that ability to bring herself into a character and modify her ways just enough so it doesn’t seem like she is just reciting words. For, in my recollection of her roles, Dennings has always been that sarcastic character who cracks jokes at everything, and yet has this soft interior she is hiding from the world. Something which she shows in the character Renee, but a bit more than what we have seen before. For in To Write Love on Her Arms, there is less sarcasm and more truth. Dennings isn’t using wit or jokes to sort of distract us from the characters pain. No, instead she is taking our hand and helping us face it head on. Something which Saul, Harkavy, and especially the character David McKenna (Rupert Friend) help us with.
After all, while in the media we have seen characters like Renee, or even seen celebrities or reality stars with issues similar to hers, often we are given the fall and end on their rise. With this film, though, there is no serious triumph or return to some version of normalcy. It truly takes approaches the idea that addicts aren’t necessarily fixed or back to normal, but simply taking things day by day and holding onto hope that things can only get better.
Now, I hate to flip things, but I must admit as much as I love Dennings as Renee, I do wonder would the film have been better if it was someone else playing the role. For with Dennings being the type of actress who brings the same persona to each role, just with some being more openly vulnerable than others, it makes it hard to not just see this as another Kat Dennings movie, rather than what is an actual person’s story.
Plus, be it limited range, or just my own limited views of her, I feel like the things we see Renee deal with should have given a stronger emotional impact. Which I don’t say to diminish what the real Renee went through, or those with similar stories, but I just feel Dennings was more so stretching her acting abilities than was someone who was ready and able to really take on a role like this. As for the rest of the cast? Honestly outside of David’s life, there was no reason to take interest in anyone else, and the air of mystery around David is quickly thrown in a scene without much care for all the build up until that moment. Well, in my opinion.
Overall: TV Viewing
The story itself is beautiful, and thinking about it can make you teary eyed. However, the performances, and casting choices, I would argue take away from the film’s impact. For while, I don’t question anyone’s intention, nor them taking the subject matter lightly, for the actors may have went through what Renee did, but as a viewer of the film I felt Dennings was pushing herself as an actress with the wrong person’s story. Hence the TV Viewing label for while the story needs to be read and seen, I know there must be better representation out there.