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Sundance 2021 Review: 'Superior' will leave you seeing double

Sisters... sisters... there were never such devoted sisters...

Ani Mesa as Vivian in 'Superior.'
(Image: © Courtesy of the Sundance Institute)

Our Verdict

'Superior' is an attractive but overlong look at two sisters trying to find themselves. While, y'know, also running for their lives.

For

  • 💄Aesthetically pleasing.
  • 💄Solid performances from the Mesa sisters.

Against

  • 💄Taking a swing is nice, but this story doesn't warrant a full feature film.

Superior is part of our Sundance Film Festival 2021 coverage. You can find all of our reviews here.

Erin Vassilopoulos returns to Sundance with Superior. The film, a continuation of her 2015 short of the same name, follows Marian (Alessandra Mesa) as she flees from her abusive ex. With nowhere else to go, Marian turns to her estranged sister Vivian (Ani Mesa). Their relationship is pretty rocky after a six-year gap, but Viv does the sisterly thing and allows Marian to stay. What else does her failing marriage have to lose, anyway?

Stylistically, Superior is quite the attractive film. Its retro aesthetic both compliments its story and gives us something pretty enough to look at while things escalate in Marian’s life. The juxtaposition of 80s rocker and suburban housewife clash against each other nicely, too, as do the twins’ conflicting personalities. The Mesa sisters each perform respectably in each of their roles as well. While there's certainly a benefit to working with your sibling so far as rapport is concerned, each actress gets the opportunity to show off their chops before the film wraps.

Marian, as you’ve likely assumed, is quite the free spirit. Meanwhile, Vivian did everything she was “supposed” to do. She got married, she has the house that’s always spic and span, and she almost has the baby. While she and her husband have had issues conceiving, they’re doing everything they need to so they can ensure their perfect bundle of joy, up to and including scheduling sex. The film doesn’t intend that as a knock on families trying to get pregnant—sometimes you’ve got to do everything you can to get your family started—but in this specific instance it is very much a symptom of Vivian and her husband’s lackluster love life. He’s all white bread with the crusts cut off, and Viv still craves a little bit of the unknown no matter how happy she pretends to be.

Before long, Superior sets up the famed twin-swap as a way for Viv to get a taste of life outside the house (and for Marian to finish her song before her band plays). While said swap isn’t the smartest of moves, the film never tries to be coy about its intentions. You know things are going to go sideways for both women—it’s just a question of when, and how the two will respond to it. Though the predictability isn’t a detriment to the narrative, the runtime most certainly is.

Regrettably, this story is one that never needed to be much longer than a short. Looking at the tale in its “full” form, there just wasn't much reason to shift this into a feature film. There’s merit to seeing Vivian find herself again after years of bland existence, but there’s so much fat in Superior that could have been trimmed. As it stands, the full feature is a little under 100 minutes. Though on the average side for a full-length film, there’s just so much unnecessary screentime making an otherwise interesting story of sisterhood and self-discovery feel like a complete chore.