'Braid' Review: An Intoxicating Thriller That Makes "Style-Over-Substance" A Good Thing [Tribeca]

I've never robotripped, ingested geltabs of acid or licked stimulant toad excretions, but if I did, I'd imagine the experience to resemble Mitzi Peirone's Braid. Style over substance just had a new league invented by this hallucinogenic rabbit's hole, laced with uppers and light on explanations. Keeping up isn't an option here – audiences are better served soaking in sugar plum scenic drenches than trying to rationalize character motivations. Peirone marches to the beat of her own drum, that's part of a massive in-tune band, performing on her own made-up holiday. Hold onto something and try not to lose your mind...there's no Mad Hatter to save you this time.

The film loosely follows twenty-something(ish?) fugitives Petula (Imogen Waterhouse) and Tilda (Sarah Hay). After narrowly escaping an apartment drug bust (their product), the duo hops a train with intent to visit childhood friend Daphne (Madeline Brewer) – and steal her fortune. To do so, they must participate in a role-playing fantasy that dates back to younger days where Tilda is Daphne's daughter and Petula stars as "Doctor." It all feeds into Daphne's schizophrenic mind – best described by her current isolation despite the massive estate's manor grounds. Abide by Daphne's rules, last 48 hours and walk away rich – how hard can it be?

It's difficult to define a film like Braid. Punk Alice In Wonderland exploitation? A Lynchian headtrip dashed with Ana Lily Amirpour's sense of sensationalism? Pastel-blasted mind imprisonment thrills paced by Mozart remixes and experimental unrest? Peirone revels in a sandboxed layered with multicolored granules, splattered with blood and overseen by no regulating party. It is, on a virtuosically artistic level, a moving sight to behold as purples, pinks and yellows turn green gardens into PCP-transported gumdrop forests. Your eyes will remain fixated and overtaken, a testament to artistic style and mesmerizing visual storytelling by way of substance abuse alternate universes.

This overglorification of optical presentation should not be taken as a pure sell (from experience). If open-ended tangents in storytelling grate your cinematic patience, Braid will be a most cumbersome affair. The loosest semblance of plot demands full psychedelic immersion, as questions and developments are eventually answered with even more indecisive trickery. Nothing is what it seems, or maybe it is, but probably not, and what's the difference? Peirone knows the scenes she wants to project – locomotive bathroom stall dominatrix clips and dank, destitute "playing house" objectification – but cares not how the grand symphony sounds. Focusing on smaller grabs, obsessed with the moment.

For what little grasp of narrative inclination exists, Braid flows maniacally and free. Confidently and unencumbered by fears of ambitions too grand. Attention is that of a fragrance ad (black and white lensing one minute) and music video seduction (starbursts of color the next) slamming together in some Harmony Korine purgatory, but musical accompaniment pushes forward as to never drop energy (street trash trance bangers; backdoor club sexy). It sounds chaotic, but Peirone's witches' brew of parentless dress-up and caged-bird torture intoxicates like forbidden fruit. Expectations are neither met nor undersold because there's no possible way of telling what direction will be taken next. A blank check mentality that's taken full advantage of.

Waterhouse, Hay and Brewer are muses, prisoners and lab rats all alike. Nebulous story constructions require the best of performances to achieve watchability, which this trio of deranged millennial types realizes through swaying means. Waterhouse and Hay are two players in a sometimes violent (meat tenderizer), often times inexplicable game run by Brewer's few-cents-short-of-a-dollar puppeteer. It's as if sets were pumped with laughing gas and Peirone just rolled cameras, never better than a latter-stage montage of head-bopping and bloody bathrooms set to classical musical composition (as any good breakdown of reality does). These girls are desperate, dominating and full of fiery spunkiness in the most genre-savvy way, keeping Peirone's flimsy house of cards from blowing into winds of disinterest.

You must understand, I'm writing this review because some of you out there are going to dive head-first into Mitzi Peirone's stimulating debut and never resurface. For me, the tightening of some loose screws throughout scripted madness would have provided a different reaction...but, you must wholly understand that this is my single opinion. While I enjoyed Braid, the film will find its more ravenous audience. Those are the people this review is intended for. Viewers who'd pay for a full-immersion into arthouse vibrancy with nary a care for structure. By all means, ride this gushing wave of oversaturated criminal conflagration if preceding descriptions tickled your curiosity, incomprehensible or not.

/Film Rating: 6.5 out of 10