Fancy Dance Review – IGN

Fancy Dance: A Breakthrough Film for Lily Gladstone

2023 turned out to be a pivotal year for Lily Gladstone. Those who saw them in Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women back in 2016 already knew of Gladstone’s talent. However, it wasn’t until Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon that the rest of the world truly recognized their brilliance, culminating in a Best Actress nomination at the Oscars. This success prompted Apple to acquire Fancy Dance, the feature debut from director Erika Tremblay.

Fancy Dance Plot Overview

In Fancy Dance, Gladstone portrays Jax, a Seneca-Cuyahoga who is caring for her niece, Roki (Isabel DeRoy-Olson). Jax is struggling to find someone willing to investigate the disappearance of Roki’s mother, Tawi. The film takes on a darker tone, reminiscent of the backwoods noir Winter’s Bone, where closure becomes the main driving force for the characters.

Complications and Tension

As the plot unfolds, complications arise in the form of Jax’s dad, Frank, and stepmom, Nancy, who gain custody of Roki due to Jax’s criminal record. The urgency of finding Tawi increases, especially as Roki prepares for a pow-wow she hopes her mother will attend. The story takes an unexpected turn when Jax and Roki embark on a road trip, setting off a chain of events that test their resilience.

Analysis and Critique

While Fancy Dance showcases Gladstone’s captivating presence and acting prowess, the film falls short in some areas. The interactions with white characters feel forced, and certain plot devices seem contrived to heighten tension artificially. Director Erika Tremblay demonstrates skill in building suspense in certain scenes, yet the overall visual aesthetic lacks the depth needed to elevate the narrative.

The Performances

Gladstone shines in their role, bringing a mix of determination, sadness, and levity to the character of Jax. Their on-screen chemistry with DeRoy-Olson, who delivers a solid performance despite moments of amateurishness, culminates in a memorable final scene. It’s clear that Gladstone’s talent elevates Fancy Dance, making them a standout in the film.