Based on a true story, Take Out Girl is a pretty good Indie film. With some nice camera work and a strong thematic core, this picture does a great job with limited resources, delivering a competently written feature. If you can look past some of the obvious limitations (a couple of camera jolts and some basic special effects), Take Out Girl more than makes up for this with its story, entombing the film with a morally grey, yet thought provoking narrative.
The film revolves around Tera, a hot-headed teenager who’s kicked out of school and does everything she can to support her Mum at her restaurant. During a routine delivery, she stumbles upon a powerful drug boss and with it, an opportunity to score a good amount of money. With the offer too lucrative to turn down, Tera realizes this opportunity involves bending the law to give her family a break from arduous labour and scraping a living. Is it worth breaking the law a little for a better life?
As the film progresses this question becomes much more of a focal point as Tera finds herself becoming more and more invested in this game until everything bubbles over and spills into a messy, emotional climax that ramps up the tension ten-fold. This third act does well too in what’s otherwise a pretty slow-burn story, although the ambiguous way this one ends certainly won’t be for everyone.
Stylistically the film peppers in multiple montage shots throughout the 100 minute run-time, with a hip-hop infused soundtrack for good measure to go with it. The camera work is creative for the most part, and whether it be a straight dolly movement as Tera squeezes past a clothes rail to get into Lalo’s den, or a rotating shot for Saren and Tera during an argument, there’s a consistency to this to keep things feeling very art-house by design.
While the story itself is pretty basic, the acting is good for the most part. There’s one subjective moment during a shoot-out late on that isn’t all that convincing but it’s a small fraction of a second in what’s otherwise a decent enough flick so it’s easy to look past. The slimy drug boss Lalo is suitably unnerving while Tera does well as the main protagonist, injecting a good balance of fiery determination and genuine heart and compassion.
Adding some weight to this story are some interesting questions surrounding morality, family and the blurred line between right and wrong. If you were faced with an opportunity to change your family’s life forever, would you take it if it meant breaking the law? It certainly provides food for thought and although the film could easily pass as a drama, in a way it actually works closer to a tragedy. I won’t spoil anything of course but suffice to say the message at the heart of this is a powerful one and certainly stamps an exclamation mark on the end.
Along with a slightly overlong second act, the film has a tendency to half-bake its accents, jumping sporadically between Chinese, Spanish and English, sometimes in the same conversation. At times there are bouts of dialogue that move between these accents and it does disrupt the natural flow of the script. Personally, I would have liked it if Tera’s Mother stuck solely to speaking Chinese for the film’s duration, until the third act when something dramatic occurs, just for that extra surprising burst of tension.
Take Out Girl is a real slow burn character-driven drama but it’s one that does reward your patience with a solid third act. This climax easily elevates the whole film, and as things start coming crashing down, Tera’s character is given some great material to work with. Although the ambiguous final shots and a couple of budget issues surrounding special effects will turn some away, Take Out Girl is an enjoyable, character-driven drama nonetheless.