“‘Freaky Tales’, an ambitious anthology film following interconnected stories in Oakland, premiered last night at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. With magnetic performances but an uneven overall production, the film brought a mix of reactions.
High profile premiere draws stars
The premiere screening of ‘Freaky Tales’ was the hottest ticket on opening night. Pedro Pascal made his first public appearance after injuring his arm on the set of ‘The Mandalorian’, debuting a sling at the event. He stars as Carl in the film.
Co-star Angus Cloud also walked his final red carpet, as ‘Freaky Tales’ was his last project before his untimely passing. The premiere included a tribute to Cloud’s memory. Other stars in attendance included Jay Ellis, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Normani.
Ellis expressed the importance of the film’s mission to “…give voices to communities that are often marginalized in film.”
Performances shine in uneven anthology
‘Freaky Tales’ follows six stories across Oakland focusing on themes of gentrification, police brutality, and activism. The characters include:
- Carl (Pascal), an idealistic city council candidate
- Alicia (Normani), a dancer forced out of her studio by redevelopment
- Andre (Cloud), an activist leading protests against police brutality
- Jamal (Ellis), a lawyer defending protestors charged with crimes
- Lionel (Abdul-Mateen), a frustrated small business owner
The film drew mixed reviews overall for its uneven mix of tones and quality across the interwoven stories:
“| Publication | Rating |
| ————- |:————-:|
| Indiewire | C+ |
| Hollywood Reporter | 6.5/10 |
| Variety | 2.5/4 stars |”
However, critics praised the strong performances, especially from Pascal and Cloud. Abdul-Mateen and Ellis also shined in more limited roles.
Themes resonate, narrative falters
Director Ryan Coogler expressed a passion for capturing Oakland’s unique culture and the issues threatening local communities. ‘Freaky Tales’ approaches weighty themes like gentrification with nuance from the varied perspectives of its characters.
But the script struggles to balance the complex narrative. The mix of gritty drama and comedic moments causes disjointed tonal shifts. And the connections between stories feel contrived at times.
The second half focuses more on individual story conclusions as protests escalate, losing some momentum. Still, a powerful final montage leaves a lingering impression.
With ‘Freaky Tales’ receiving a high profile launch, distributor A24 will look to build Oscar buzz around Pascal and Cloud’s performances. Abdul-Mateen and Ellis also seem likely awards contenders in supporting categories.
But the film will need to find an audience with general viewers to justify its $15 million budget. Early critical reception indicates word-of-mouth may be mixed, but further festival screenings could shift perceptions. Look for reactions from Toronto and Telluride to shape expectations heading towards a wide November release.
In tragedy, ‘Freaky Tales’ marks the last chance to appreciate Angus Cloud’s immense talent before his life was cut short. Pedro Pascal also continues his rise as Hollywood’s most compelling leading man in a vulnerable dramatic turn. For these powerful performances alone, ‘Freaky Tales’ makes its uneven parts worth enduring.
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