Saunders’ Timely Feature Debut Is Heartfelt & Humorous

Jan 11, 2023

Home Movie Reviews Dotty & Soul Review: Saunders’ Timely Feature Debut Is Heartfelt & Humorous [SDIFF]

It’s clichéd and predictable, but Dotty & Soul is sincere in showing how people can learn from past mistakes when given time to put in the work.

Leslie Uggams in Dotty & Soul

At the height of a time in which “cancel culture” has found its footing throughout Hollywood, Adam Saunders asks an important and timely question in his feature-length debut, Dotty & Soul. At what point does one allow people time to learn and grow from their offensive behaviors and mistakes before ostracizing takes place? Should there be practical plans in place for people to “win back” the public if they’ve been genuine in their apologies and growth? Saunders explores the answers to these questions through Ethan Cox. After a mistake from his past becomes public, it proves to be costly for his new business venture. It’s clichéd and predictable, but Dotty & Soul is sincere in showing how people can learn from past mistakes when given time to put in the work.

Adam Saunders plays the loud and obnoxious hot-shot entrepreneur, Ethan Cox. At this point in his career, Cox is ready to sell his self-driving car company and make his investors filthy rich. But when his problematic Halloween costume gets tweeted, the ensuing social media firestorm nearly ends Ethan’s career. Desperate to figure out a way forward, Ethan comes up with a wild plan. He hires a Black 71-year-old snack cart vendor, Dotty (Leslie Uggams), to pose as his company’s new CEO, with Ethan still managing from behind the wings. Unbeknownst to Ethan, Dotty tolerates disrespect from no one and actually has opinions of her own, which initiates problems for his business partners.

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On the surface, Saunders’ directorial film debut is another story about an undeserving privileged CEO whose past comes back to prevent him from accelerating in his professional life. In reality, however, Dotty & Soul manages to escape the confinements of its storyline and demonstrate the importance and value of diversity. It isn’t overzealous, nor does it get caught up with overselling the “good vs. bad” characters that so many of these films often showcase. Instead, these characters have depth, and their willingness to learn and grow on their own, while actually taking steps to do so, sets it apart from its predecessors.

Though the problems in Dotty & Soul resolve as quickly as they are formed, there’s no denying the sweet building friendship between the two leads. At different points in their lives, Dotty and Ethan are polar opposites. Ethan is rich, privileged, and spends every dollar he has on outlandish things — from the cars he drives down to the gaudy clothes he wears. Dotty, given her life and current experiences, has learned to be more frugal and intentional with her spending. When the two begin working together, it presents learning and growth opportunities for both, which is when the film propels into an entertaining and heartwarming body of work. Dotty and Ethan may come from different generations and cultures, but they soon discover similarities in their upbringing, aptitude, and dreams.

These core themes in Saunders’ feature — growth in spite of age, socio-economical differences, and the examination of living an authentic life — strengthens Saunders’ script in what would typically be an overused foundation for a plot. Yet, the story and characters progress naturally, and the good film comes down to its execution by the cast and crew. Adam Saunders, who penned the script, directed, and starred as the lead in Dotty & Soul, recognizes that this isn’t actually Ethan Cox’s story — it’s Dotty’s. It just so happens that they came into each other’s lives at the right time. To the surprise of no one, Deadpool’s Leslie Uggams is tremendous as Dotty and delivers a showstopping performance. When Saunders is in a scene with her, Uggams makes him a better performer, which is beautiful to observe.

Saunders’ feature-length directorial debut is a confident one. With humor and heart, he writes and directs relevant themes and experiences that the world has come to understand well at this point in society. Dotty & Soul is genuine without being preachy, and humorous without leaning into offensive territory. But most importantly, it teaches an incredibly valuable lesson in this day in age: Letting people learn from their mistakes by doing the work required to evolve. One may not walk away from the film forgiving or even liking Ethan Cox, but seeing him reflect and apply his learnings to his life is what makes it easy to.

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Dotty & Soul premiered at the 2022 San Diego International Film Festival. The film is 79 minutes long and is not yet rated.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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