‘Cora Bora’ Movie Review: Great Performance By Megan Stalter Can’t Elevate Gen-Z Coming-Of-Age Comedy Above Pack
For almost 10 years, we’ve seen a slew of Gen-Z coming-of-age indie comedies come and go for young people like myself to consume, laugh at, and possibly relate to. There have been great ones like Bo Burnham‘s Eighth Grade. There have been good ones like Greta Gerwig‘s Lady Bird. There have been fine ones like Olivia Wilde‘s Booksmart. Most importantly though, there have been mediocre and bad ones as well.
Cora Bora, which premiered this week at the South By Southwest Film Festival in Austin, the latest indie coming-of-age comedy from director Hannah Pearl Utt, is, unfortunately, one of the mediocre ones.
Cora Bora follows a young musician named Cora (Hacks‘ Megan Stalter), who is struggling to both break into the L.A. music industry and maintain her long-distance, open relationship with her girlfriend, Justine (Jojo T. Gibbs). One day Cora and Justine have a video chat and while Cora lies about how much “success” she’s found in L.A. and how she’s constantly playing at the hottest clubs, she notices something strange on Justine’s end, suspecting that she might be seeing someone else while they’re attempting to do an open, long-distance relationship.
Cora spontaneously decides to return to her hometown of Portland, Oregon to surprise Justine at her graduation party (something she said she wouldn’t go out of fear of missing out on singing gigs) while also confronting her past demons she left behind.
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In premise, there is a lot that I appreciate and find admirable about Cora Bora: a toxic, narcissistic, chaotic woman acting like she’s a big shot who starts spiraling out of control when she returns to her hometown until she gets hit with a reality check and forced to confront her inner demons. However, a movie having an interesting premise does not guarantee a well-made film, and Cora Bora is proof of that because despite a great leading performance from Stalter, this film both in terms of presentation and comedy fails to stand out from the vast pool of similar Gen Z comedies.
My biggest issue with Cora Bora is just how incredibly repetitive and predictable its story is. Despite the film being barely 90 minutes long, Cora Bora feels stretched out with the same scenario of Cora acting as a narcissist, being pushed back due to her toxic personality, and then dealing with the consequences of her behavior happening over and over and over again. The same thing happens on repeat for 90 minutes with barely anything unique or interesting occurring, making this feel less like a feature-length film and more like an SNL skit that’s been stretched out for 90 minutes.
However, I would be forgiving of all of this if the movie was either consistently funny or was well-presented, but it doesn’t deliver on those fronts either. Everything about Cora Bora from its directing to its cinematography to its approach to editing and everything in between is bland and one-note. The film’s presentation was overall lacking and in the hands of a more expressive director like Burnham or Gerwig, this would have been something special.
Additionally, and this is more of a personal issue than anything, the comedy also did not live up to my expectations as I was mostly unamused with what was going on in the film from a comedic perspective. While the movie did get some chuckles from me every now and then, there was not a single moment that I found downright hilarious, and while I understand that the film is going for a Nathan for You-style cringe comedy approach, it still did not deliver on this brand of humor.
Stalter is the only exceptional aspect of this film as she does a wonderful job playing this specific type of character, and I hope to see her in more projects down the road. As for Cora Bora though, while this was a serviceable indie coming-of-age comedy, it is not one that I will be rewatching anytime soon.
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