Orphans and primitives both, Bay and Nim approach their respective means of communication—cinema and signing—awkwardly, and from a removal; their resulting control over their languages often suggests clever mimicry instead of true language.
Just as pageantry has long been a part of American culture, so has the National Spelling Bee, a pervasive test of academic acumen despite the fact that it requires a kind of mechanical rigor that has gone out of favor with modern educational systems in this country.
The movie is less a laugh-desperate extended SNL skit than a very funny character study of a woman’s depression and her struggle to get herself back on track. We already knew Wiig could make us laugh, but we didn’t know she was a strong dramatic actress.
It may seem perverse to call for more sex and violence, but in a film that is about barely legal girls living in indentured prostitution—an allegory for the continued exploitation of women—keeping things on the lighter side borders on offensive.
As always with Assayas, the camera is not merely a mechanical device, but a natural extension of the director’s eye. His writing is equally intimate and astute, providing us an immediate window into the kind of familial anecdotes and interactions that feel both mundane and revealing.