For Reel


Queen of Earth (2015)
September 13, 2015, 11:25 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Alex Ross Perry
3 Stars
Queen of EarthOn Mad Men, Elisabeth Moss played Peggy Olson as increasingly defensive and indignant as the years went on, transitioning from a plucky young upstart to a bonafide taskmistress. It wasn’t long before all her patience was sapped from her–minor offenses were quick to become major breaches. Queen of Earth suggests what Peggy might have looked like if she were clinically insane, if her self-destructiveness completely took hold and lead her to a series of bizarre feats of psychological violence. Director Alex Ross Perry is very consciously operating in the mode of art house greats before him (women-gone-mad pictures like Persona, Repulsion, and even Rosemary’s Baby being clear points of reference), using madness as a means of demonstrating incredible isolation and despair. It’s a claustrophobic undertaking at every step–from the setting of the lake house, to the insistence on close-ups, to the daily title cards that seem more oppressive than as a reflection of the approaching, supposedly liberating end. Similarly, Queen of Earth’s key scene involves a lengthy shot in which Banks and co-star Katherine Waterston share stories of past romances as the camera racks focus between them. It doesn’t play so much as a moment that demonstrates their bond, but one in which two women are at best playing a game of oneupmanship, if they have any consideration for what their companion is feeling at all. Unfortunately, the film might have worked better as pure parody, and Perry’s enthusiasm for this sort of pastiche seems more devout than righteous. As with Woody Allen’s Interiors, it is rewarding to see a great artist play outside of his comfort zone, but there is a sinking feeling that he has lost his identity along the way rather than succeeded in acclimating to a new mode of storytelling.



Listen Up Philip (2014)
January 15, 2015, 5:34 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Alex Ross Perry
4.5 Stars
Listen Up PhilipPerhaps the most considerate line spoken by the self-sabotaging protagonist of Listen Up Philip is to his girlfriend: “I hope this will be good for us, but especially for me.” He’s a pompous, alienating young author releasing his second book and severing all ties in his wake. Philip’s (Jason Schwartzman) difficulty as a social being is an inevitability–to be the great artist he aspires to me, there’s very little room for common decency (or so he would think). An aging novelist (Jonathan Pryce) serves as his mentor and a blunt reminder of his future, a hollowed soul filled with resentments. Spending time with such insufferable characters can be laborious, and part of the brilliance of Alex Ross Perry’s film is the way that he opens up the narrative to involve more of the world. For a twenty-minute chunk of the film, the audience follows Philip’s girlfriend (played by a terrific Elizabeth Moss) over a summer rediscovery. As much as anything else, this is a film about the expressive potential of Moss’ face–in one particularly showy long take, her desire to be rid of Philip slowly melts into her fear of being without him. For all of the abuse she suffers, we knows she’s going to be okay. As for Philip? Well, Perry writes him as a man who has completely caged himself off in his pursuit of brilliance, perhaps forever incapable of showing true empathy.