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  Queen of Earth Broken Friendship
Year: 2015
Director: Alex Ross Perry
Stars: Elisabeth Moss, Katherine Waterston, Patrick Fugit, Kentucker Audley, Keith Poulson, Kate Lyn Sheil, Craig Butta, Daniel April
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Catherine (Elisabeth Moss) has suffered two emotional blows recently: her father, who suffered from depression, passed away, and as if that wasn't bad enough her boyfriend broke up with her soon after, leaving her a tearful wreck. Fortunately, or so she thinks, she has her best friend Virginia (Katherine Waterston) to provide some stability in her life, so when she suggests they take a summer break to the holiday home in the countryside, by a lake, that Virginia's parents own that sounds just dandy to her. It will be good to get away, just like they did last year at the same time, it's so peaceful out there in the middle of nowhere... but wait, what exactly happened last year? Was it as sunny as she remembers?

Queen of Earth was one of those twenty-first century movies so confined by referring back to other films that it found itself very much in their thrall. There were so many benchmarks in classic arthouse cinema that writer and director Alex Ross Perry was bringing up in practically every scene that if you had experienced them you would find yourself thinking, yeah, that’s a bit Rainer Werner Fassbinder, that bit's very Ingmar Bergman, ooh, a spot of Roman Polanski there (probably while stroking your chin) and it could become distracting. However, if you had never seen those references, then you may be a little lost on watching this and wondering exactly what Perry thought he was getting at.

Fair enough, no film exists in a vacuum, even the cheapest found footage horror movie is harking back to something, even if it's simply a bunch of efforts loosely from the same genre, and originality may be something to be prized but wasn't essential for enjoying any form of entertainment. But this item was so slavish in its call backs to the cinema of female psychology, specifically female psychology that was cracking up, that it didn't particularly come across as an entity in its own right, so when the prospect of watching it arose you had to wonder if you would like to hear an original or a faithful cover version. Not that this was poorly made, it was very well photographed (on film, not digital) by Sean Price Williams to look suitably authentic to the past.

The seventies-style trailer was fun, too. On the other hand, it was undeniably pickling those previous works in a manner that didn't have much new to say that had not been said before. Once Catherine and Virginia are settling in their retreat, they both find there are aspects of the lives they have temporarily left behind that insist on encroaching on their holiday, though that's not exactly surprising when they have chosen not to abandon each other and they bring up all sorts of memories and feelings that both women may have been trying to escape. The usual caveats applied, that one may be the figment of the other's imagination and they are in fact out there on their own with their recollections for example, though at least the notion that one may be dead wasn't too overplayed, and thankfully there was no indication that it was all a dream.

The real stars of the show were not the actors, who were good but not great, but that whole look and atmosphere of the piece, accompanied by Keegan DeWitt's excellent music score that jangled its nerves and made proceedings a lot spookier than they would have been otherwise. If you wanted a film where you could simply drink in a richly rendered ambience then Queen of Earth was a very fine delivery system for that, though as far as the psychology Perry was examining went, he was not saying anything too fresh, and it was a very movie brand of mental exploration he was indulging in, in that it served that mood making rather than inventing a convincing strain of explanation for why the two leads are damaging themselves and their friend other than the fact Perry saw it in other films. In many ways you wished he had gone further and crafted an all-out weirdo movie, but you imagine the budget would have restricted that, and what he did create was fruitful as its aura of off-kilter bucolic oppression went. You admired the effort, at least, and there was indeed much to be drawn from the films of the past, after all.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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