Liza, Liza, Skies are Grey | Terry Sanders | August 18th, 2017
There are some films that can accurately portray a time period with little details and by adding a certain authentic air to every scene. With Terry Sanders’ new film, Liza, Liza, Skies are Grey, the authenticity seems to have been entirely lost. Being 31 years old, I obviously haven’t lived through the 60s. I have no claim to know what times were like back then. That being said, there is just a fake sense of replicating the decade that the film just can’t escape.
Mikey Madison stars as Liza, a teenager who lives in 1966 California. She lives with her mother (Kristin Minter), who apparently doesn’t feel like Liza respects her (according to the mother’s cringe-worthy dialogue with Liza). Liza has an African American housekeeper, and she casually listens to race-related news while eating breakfast. That’s about as far as this movie goes to touch on that subject. There are moments where Sanders (who also wrote the film) tries to plug in a certain hot topic or philosophy that the time is now infamously known for. There’s a subtle way to do this, but Liza Liza doesn’t seem to know how.
The main story revolves around Liza and her high school boyfriend Brett (Sean H. Scully). After an odd scene where Liza’s mother’s boyfriend tries to seduce her, she decides that she wants to be Brett’s “first girl”. They embark on a road trip that ultimately goes nowhere. It’s a coming-of-age story with no real stakes, or sense of anything being learned (unlike some recent ones that come to mind). While the 85-year-old Sanders has award-winning experience while in Hollywood over the decades, Liza Liza comes across as almost a student film.
The nighttime scenes are glaringly lit with moving fluorescent lights, the actors sometimes look towards the camera looking for direction, and the actors read the dialogue as if they literally just read it for the first time. There are some scenes that were just painful to watch. It’s not great when you start to feel slightly embarrassed for everyone involved. Mikey Madison does an O.K. job in some scenes, but overall she comes across as flat and uninterested.
There’s one scene where Liza is being dropped off by Brett, who is driving a station wagon that has brand spanking new flower power stickers all over it. It’s almost like someone decided to take all the stereotypes of the 60s, and gloss them over to look brand new for 2017. It’s immediately off-putting, much like the free-loving hippies, aggressive hotel manager, and other odd “characters” Liza and Brett encounter over the course of the film.
Almost none of these interactions matter, and the film ends almost exactly where the two characters started. They might have had a crazy couple of days, but only Liza ever seems even remotely “changed” from her experience. So this is a movie with not much of a new message, and told in a rather feigning way. The 60s may have been a time for sexual revolution and exploration, but Liza Liza barely scrapes the surface level cliches of better period films.