How one recovers from tragedy varies by the person. Many try to move on with life, while others attempt to escape everything that reminds them of the trauma. Director Hannah Pearl Utt examines a young woman who loses herself in the aftermath of one such event. Starring a very funny Megan Stalter, Cora Bora asks how we regain control of our life when the world no longer makes sense.

A young musician named Cora (Stalter) lives in Los Angeles, playing small gigs to make due. She finds herself in an open relationship with longtime girlfriend Justine (Jojo T. Gibbs), who still lives in Portland. When Cora thinks Justine may have found a more serious partner, she flies home to surprise her. However, she finds her friends and family in Portland have seemingly moved on without her.

Cora Bora focuses on how we handle tragedy and trauma, and Stalter plays a woman still running from it at every turn. She deflects as much as she can with humor. It’s extremely fun to watch her behave badly, even when it’s at other characters’ expense. We understand she knows better, and that she actively engages in hypocrisy. Yet Stalter is so funny, you nearly forgive her (until a scene at a park/party).

When she’s asked to discuss her upsetting past, she actually plays it like someone who has not received the help she needs. The revealing scene is powerful, and when she plays music (which Stalter proves especially good at), Stalter sheds some of her baggage. It’s a rare chance to see someone break out of their misery for a moment, and Cora Bora is better for it.

She has an excellent ensemble to play off. Gibbs shows why she’s emerging as one of Hollywoods go-to actresses. The twenties lead transitions well to a supporting role here, and remains so intriguing you want to watch a movie about her point-of-view as Cora’s longtime partner. Ayden Mayeri stands in as the audience surrogate for most of the film. Her frustrations with Cora boil over, and begin affecting other relationships in her life.

Manny Jacinto shines in every scene he’s featured. Not only is do we want to root for him, but he becomes our ally over the course of the film. Other cameos from Chelsea Peretti, Thomas Mann, and Margaret Cho help populate the world in with strong comedic senseabilities.

While Cora Bora does not change the wheel, it certainly achieves its goals. The storytelling works well and it’s extremely funny when the opportunity arises. With so much talent, including Gibbs, Stalter, and Utt, it succeeds despite some limitations.

Alan’s Rating: 7/10

What do you think of Cora Bora? Let us know in the comments below! Catch Cora Bora at SXSW 2023!

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