Stephanie’s Image – Movie Review

Whenever a documentary filmmaker investigates the obvious homicide of the previous model, she finds that there are numerous questions surrounding her death. Interviews with her friends and business associates provide only a mosaic-like picture of her life and her relationships. The film stars Oscar nominated actress Melissa Leo (Frozen River) in the title role as the nebulous entity everyone is attempting to identify. The narrative/documentary style lends well to depicting this crime mystery, who was Stephanie and why had she been murdered. The police called it a homicide suicide with boyfriend (Chris Butler) pulling the trigger before turning the gun on himself.

Janis DeLucia Allen plays the role of the narrator and also directs this feature. From behind the camera, she probes those who knew Stephanie with questions that reveal more about themselves than Stephanie. Photos, some erotic, some with friends, add to the mystery, and slowly we find that Stephanie was obsessed with finding the perfect picture that reflects who she was as a person. JP Allen’s script deals with this image obsession and the dichotomy between ones inner and outer image, the true and profound sides of one’s life. We slowly discover that Stephanie was troubled woman, troubled not so much by her fading beauty but by her deteriorating self-image.

While some interviews lingered, the structure of the story held me until the end when Melissa Leo’s tour de force monologue reveals the solution to this mystery and her untimely death. Video, taped days before her death from a vantage point overlooking the city, delivers the raw emotions of the person wanting to explain yet still seeking answers. It was well worth the journey for this subtle and unconventional drama delivers a thought-provoking ending that is certain to stirs discussions among film goers. And yes, she found the perfect photograph.

CREDITS: The film stars Melissa Leo, Janis DeLucia Allen, Mara Luthane, J.P. Allen, Darren Bridgett, Sally Clawson, Richard Conti, Yvonne Fisher, and Warren Keith as Detective McCaffrey. Written by J. P. Allen Directed and Edited by Janis DeLucia Allen Director of Photography, K.C. Smith Studio Photography of Melissa Leo by Jan Stürmann Music by Michael Slattery and Shoulders Makeup by Stacy McClure Sound by Jim Granato Additional Casting by John Dole. Produced by Coffee & Language Productions. Distributed by Vanguard Cinema. Reviewed at the Method Fest Independent Film Festival, named after the Method acting technique. 71 Minutes Long. Not rated. Available on DVD.