The school trip to Washington D.C. is a rite of passage for many teenagers. Ah yes, the great attempt to inure the youth of America to the processes of democracy. For Lillian (Talia Ryder) and her classmates, it’s another chance to party.
Lillian finds way more than she bargains for in an early scene set in a pizzeria that I shant spoil for the viewer. This absurd inciting event that bears significant likeness to recent real life events, sends her off on a bizarre journey through varying hidden communities of the Mid-Atlantic. A lot of movies frame the east coast as a fairly frigid place, set in its ways. Weird, crazy America is somewhere out west or down south. In reality, there is plenty of batshit stuff happening within a couple hours drive from here in Philadelphia. We’ve got enough conspiracy wingnuts, white supremacists, hipster art freaks, and burgeoning terror cells to compete with the rest of the country.
The Sweet East finds the naive and blunt Lillian as a sort of Forrest Gump to all kinds of insane markers of our current reality. She coasts by on her cuteness and innocence, leaving a trail of destruction in her wake that she may even be the indirect cause of from time to time. She runs into characters played by the likes of Ayo Edebiri (owning 2023!), Jacob Elordi (same!), Simon Rex, and Nick Cave’s son. Her journey is a nihilistic and irreverent hoot with unforgettable characters, all significantly more histrionic than she. Lillian seems to take in her surroundings and the people she meets with all of the curiosity of a smirking teenage sloth.
The Sweet East finds usual Safdie Brothers/ Alex Ross Perry DP Sean Price Williams in the director’s chair for the first time. With a script written by film journalist/programmer Nick Pinkerton, it feels like a family affair piece of art made by your favorite contemporary east coast film weirdos. I had a great time with it!
Directed by Sean Price Williams
Written by Nick Pinkerton
Starring Talia Ryder, Earl Cave, Simon Rex, Ayo Edebiri
Not rated, 104 minutes