Did Beauty kill the Beast? Or was it the other way around? Or maybe they lived happily ever after? Writer-director Caroline Lindy plays with classical expectations in her enjoyable debut feature Your Monster. Actress Laura Franco (Melissa Barrera) is just out of surgery when the film starts. We quickly learn she’s survived some unnamed cancer and, in the tough year of treatments, her theater-director boyfriend of five years Jacob (Edmund Donovan) broke up with her. To make matters worse, he also moved forward with producing a Broadway musical that they developed together, one with a lead role he’d promised to Laura.

Her only friend is fellow actress Mazie, played well by Kayla Foster, who lifts up a thinly written supporting character. Mazie’s unreliability leaves Laura alone in her transient mother’s New York City apartment, crying and eating pies. Until, that is, an upstairs neighbor reveals himself. Tucked away in the attic is the aptly named Monster (Tommy Dewey), a literal monster with creature design paying deep homage to Jean Cocteau. Oscar-winner David LeRoy Anderson is the credited Special Effects Makeup Designer and has a lot of fun with the monster’s look. The effects do plenty while still allowing Dewey, in an impressive turn, to act, joke, and emote.

Dewey is the highlight of the picture, offering both humor and pathos throughout while playing off Barrera nicely. Their scenes together––often set to music you’d sooner hear in a ’40s or ’50s romance––stand out among the rest. Barrera herself is affecting as her Laura attempts to rebuild her life, with the help of new friend and potential love interest (?) Monster. After sneaking into the audition for the musical, Jacob deigns to offer her the understudy role behind the lead, who is now played by a charming, unassuming movie star (Meghann Fahy). Laura, of course, accepts the understudy, birthing a dynamic ripe for disaster as rehearsals ramp up. Fahy appears somewhat lost in the role, though that seems to partly be the point, while the Jacob character (unsurprisingly) reveals himself to be a villain with a capital V. And let us devote a few words to compliment Barrera’s beautiful voice.

Your Monster does suffer from that age-old curse of a piece of art within the movie that doesn’t quite cut it. The musical––House of Good Women––has some catchy tunes; but the more of it we see, the less convincing it becomes. The origins and exact incarnation of Monster are kept superficial, which is helpful to the narrative until a brazen third act. One appreciates the swings Lindy is taking in her race to the finish line––every single element ratchets-up to another level of melodrama. There’s certainly an argument to be made that the film we’ve been watching for ninety minutes promises nothing like the finale we’re given, and that the decisions made here can / may be off-putting for some. And yet it’s hard to imagine an ending that would have engaged this writer more. Sometimes you’ve got to go for it and see what happens.

Your Monster premiered at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival.

Grade: B

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