Grocery stores. Public parks. The sidewalk. These are just a few of the places where Korean-American Sophia, the protagonist of 2018 Sundance film White Rabbit, delivers her performance art. She wears a distinctive white outfit and an atomic blonde wig. She carries a portable loudspeaker, and she offers up her raw, honest art to the world.
Sometimes she’s in character as a recent Korean immigrant struggling to assimilate. Perhaps she’ll share her views about the racial tension present between Korean-Americans and African-Americans during the 1992 LA riots. And, at home, she’ll stick her face into a table full of cheese puffs and post it online for all four of her viewers to see.
Sophia shares her art out of compulsion and a necessity for her own survival. She tells a friend if she doesn’t perform she’ll go insane.
In between these moments of creative expression, Sophia survives in modern-day Los Angeles as a Task Rabbit who gets hired via an app to help organize other people’s lives. She rides her bicycle between gigs, but one day her plans are derailed when she finds her bike has been chained up with another person’s bike by accident. Sophia misses a Task Rabbit job, and sits on the sidewalk waiting for the culprit to arrive.
When the unsuspecting Victoria arrives to unchain her bicycle, Sophia unleashes an angry lecture at her for her carelessness. Sophia rides off, assuming she’ll never see this woman again.
Soon thereafter, however, Sophia runs into Victoria during one of Sophia’s in-character performance art pieces in the park. After some apologies and a fresh start, Sophia sees Victoria, portrayed with serene confidence by Nana Ghana, in a new light. Sophia begins to become enraptured by both Victoria’s beauty and her compelling calmness.
Sophia’s relationship with Victoria begins to dominate Sophia’s mental space, and her ability to function crumbles as the intimate bond she thought they formed is called into question.
Director Daryl Wein created this film with star and co-writer Vivian Bang, whose real-life performance art is the inspiration for much of Sophia’s character. Bang said, “No one is going to tell your story except for you.”
Wein said part of the impetus for the film, was his own exploration of the question: “Is there a place for art where there are so many other pressing issues going on?” He also wanted the film to “bring awareness to the fact we need to stop stereotyping people.”
White Rabbit definitively answers the former question and succeeds in the latter goal. Sophia’s journey is one of seeking authenticity, and her art gives her the strength to seek forgiveness from Victoria after a particularly jarring meltdown. It is the rare film that offers its actors room to be fully themselves, and it’s the ideal comedy to capture life in contemporary Los Angeles.