Fashionista (Fantasia 2017)

Sometimes people are lucky enough to be able to turn a passion into a business. April (Amanda Fuller) is in that enviable position, as is her husband Eric (Ethan Embry), co-owners of Eric's Emporium, a resale clothing shop somewhere in Texas. As far as April's concerned, clothes are oxygen. She even tries to breathe them in sometimes -- she also has a passion for sniffing clothes that's vaguely disturbing. Admittedly I'm not the one to ask about anything clothing-related, since I hate shopping for them and have no idea what goes with what. Yes, I am female.

Eric shares at least some of his wife's passion for clothes, making her promise never to get rid of any of the huge piles of clothing that fill their apartment. This I can relate to, except in my house it's books and movies. But despite all that they share, things are not going well for the couple. April is jealous of store employee Sherry (Alexandria DeBerry), who April thinks is trying to put the moves on Eric using an uncle who wants to invest in the Emporium as an excuse. But while April's right to be suspicious, the truth of what's going on shatters her trust in Eric.

With the store now a painful reminder, April drifts aimlessly for a time, befriending a homeless musician named Hank (Devin Bonnée) who tries to help her find solid ground again. Instead, she falls into an uneasy double life. Sometimes she still pines for Eric, yearning to try again; while at other times she finds herself utterly under the spell of Randall (Eric Balfour), a wealthy man she met at a bar who recognizes and encourages her passion for clothing. But Randall has a dark side and the more she learns the more frightened she becomes, and the more disjointed she feels. Meanwhile, a mysterious woman (Alex Essoe) in a mental institution haunts the edges of April's life, somehow caught up in the tangle, for good or ill.

The film draws the viewer in beautifully, gradually becoming as fascinatingly disjointed as April herself, with scenes interrupting each other and sometimes backtracking, skilfully illuminating the fractures in her everyday life. And yes, there's increasing doubt over what's really happening and what's in April's head to one extent or another, but the movie handles that gently rather than relying on it for shock value -- there's plenty of suspense, but of a more realistic kind, making it a solid four out of five thriller.

Hank quietly steals his scenes with his down-to-earth wisdom, but it's Amanda Fuller that has to carry the show and she does so admirably, keeping April believable even when the character threatens to dissolve into a pile of quirks. Though I'll never understand anyone's clothing obsession, most of us can relate to the problem of becoming too dependent -- on a thing, a person, or even the act of shopping -- and needing to break away. In that respect April's obsession is absolutely understandable, even if her method of breaking away is rather more extreme than most.

Yes, April is buried somewhere under all those clothes.


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