Cora Bora

Who is Cora? A relative stranger describes her as a person who “has a problem reading situations.” Her girlfriend calls her “someone who has one foot out the door of their own life.” Her former agent dubs her “a real shit-fuck.” As we learn over the course of 93 minutes, they’re all right. In fact, they know Cora better than she knows herself. The main character of the very funny Cora Bora is an undeniable trainwreck. This indie comedy, which details her efforts to get back on track, is one of the best surprises of the year.

Megan Stalter, the scene-stealer from Sometimes I Think About Dying and Please Don’t Destroy: The Legend of Foggy Mountain, plays aspiring musician Cora. She’s left Portland for L.A., hoping to jump-start her career. That meant leaving behind girlfriend Justine (Civil War’s Jojo T. Gibbs). They’re now in an “open relationship” that allows the bisexual Cora to hook up with whomever she chooses while still claiming Justine as her partner.

After a bad hookup with a flat-earther (Thomas Mann) she meets at a party, Cora decides to return to Portland for Justine’s graduation party. It comes as a shock to learn that Justine has started dating another woman, Riley (the delightfully passive-aggressive Ayden Mayeri). Feeling insecure, she starts trying to assert dominance, a choice that goes wrong in multiple hilarious ways. And when things go wrong, she makes even more bad choices. Her sense of reason utterly short-fuses. The only person who semi-understands her is Tom (Manny Jacinto), a sympathetic guy she meets on the plane and keeps running into during her stay.

Stalter is absolutely incredible in Cora Bora. She makes the character’s fundamentally self-delusional personality consistently amusing. Cora is a weak singer/songwriter who tries to convince people she’s a big deal. She covers up her unhappy personal life with BS about how awesome everything is. She can be rude, boorish, and insensitive. Stalter brings these qualities out so that we recognize this young woman is damaged, as opposed to outright bad. We like her, even as we laugh at her misguided exploits.

The screenplay by Rhianon Jones smartly adds depth during the third act, where we learn why Cora is such a mess. The moment is so unexpected that, at first, I assumed it was more of Cora’s nonsense and chuckled. Then Stalter suddenly makes her vulnerable and it hits like a hammer. It’s an emotional scene, nicely executed by the actress, that changes our perspective. In mixing comedy with a touch of emotion, the movie becomes an appealing, insightful study of dysfunction.

Although Stalter is front and center, the supporting cast – which includes cameos from Chelsea Peretti, Margaret Cho, and Darrell Hammond – provides solid back-up. Director Hannah Pearl Utt paces the movie well and keeps the humanity during the story’s more outrageous sections, like an extended wacky Tinder date. Our heroine's journey has an authentic feel because it's powered by the unruly energy of life's mistakes. A little bit of Cora resides in all of us.

Cora Bora is a fresh, funny, and smart LGBT-themed anti-rom-com that deserves to find a big audience.


out of four

Cora Bora is unrated, but contains strong language, drug use, and some sexual content. The running time is 1 hour and 33 minutes.

Universal

© 2024 Mike McGranaghan