Zoe Lister-Jones, a frequent participant at SXSW, has written, directed and stars in a television series (Roku Originals) that takes our heroine and places her in several relationships—usually after a steamy sex scene—each one more puzzling to the central character.
As the series opens, Mae Cannon (Zoe Lister-Jones) is in a 13-year marriage to Elijah (Whitmer Thomas). The marriage has run out of passion and is like “being single together.”
While her girlfriend Gina (Tymika Tafari), with whom she works at a museum, says, “You found your person,” it’s clear that the pair is in a rut.
After a museum showing, husband Elijah bails on the after-party. That puts Mae in a bar alone, and she ends up going home with Eric (Amar Chadha-Patel), a successful composer with an international following. The sex scene is impressive and welcome for the neglected wife, but she wakes up and discovers that she has entered an alternate reality and is now married to the Eric she just slept with. (“You’re just sort of witnessing a version of your life.”)
If this sounds confusing to Mae, it is, but it is a tribute to the writer/director/star Ms. Lister-Jones that it is not that confusing to the audience. We soon learn that these multiple lives usually follow a sex scene and the second “alternate reality” finds our girl in a lesbian relationship with Sandy (Emily Hampshire) and the mother to a child having a birthday that day.
The writing is sharp. (“I wasn’t born to speak. I was always born to sit.”) The acting is good. The “Slip” concept is easy to follow and interesting.
Zoe Lister-Jones said she wrote all seven episodes while in quarantine. She gave thanks to Rue Donnelly and Dakota Johnson for “shepherding this from inception,” along with Boatrocker and
Roku. A Toronto composing team (one of the team is a band member of “Destroyer”) provides great musical accompaniment.
Lister-Jones acknowledged that she wanted to “use sex as the centerpiece of each episode, to feel like you are inside the sexuality.” Judging from the episodes we saw at this World Premiere, she succeeded. There is a strong emphasis on female empowerment and female pleasure and in pushing the boundaries.
The writer/director/star admitted to a bit of a fixation on Timothy Chalamet and Barbra Streisand. The latter receives a shout-out via a coffee cup that re-appears and orients us to the fact that Mae has drifted into another alternate reality. (The cup and the white shoes).
It was a refreshingly original work that was quite well done, and it will be fun to see where Zoe Lister-Jones takes the series.
Cast members: Whitmer Thomas, Tymika Tafari and Zoe Lister-Jones onstage on March 16th at SXSW for the Roku original series “Slip.”