Queen of Earth
dir-scr Alex Ross Perry
prd Elisabeth Moss, Alex Ross Perry, Adam Piotrowicz, Joe Swanberg
with Elisabeth Moss, Katherine Waterston, Patrick Fugit, Kentucker Audley, Keith Poulson, Kate Lyn Sheil, Craig Butta, Daniel April, Will Clark, Mia Heiligenstein, Elisabeth Arndt, Katherine Fleming
release US 26.Aug.15
15/US 1h30
Queen of Earth
Fear sets in: Moss

waterston fugit audley
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Queen of Earth After Listen Up Philip, Perry continues his wilfully arty approach to filmmaking with this florid drama how lifelong friendships flip and slip. Using complex editing and sound, plus a B-movie vibe that indulges in lingering emotive closeups, this observant, expressive film cleverly mixes raw feelings with brittle black humour.

Childhood friends Catherine and Virginia (Moss and Waterston) are spending a week in a mountain cabin, as they did last summer with Catherine's friend James (Audley). Their friendship is a durable mix of bickering and mutual support, but this year things take a turn when neighbour Rich (Fugit) returns and starts rubbing Catherine's face in his fling with Virginia. And Virginia seems to be taunting her as well. A sensitive soul, Catherine begins to feel like her whole world is unraveling. Is Catherine going down the same road as her depressed-artist father?Or is she being pushed?

Watching Catherine's mental spiral isn't easy, but the way Perry and Ross depict it is amazing, as a series of telling, terrifying moments depict this tight friendship lurching through various highs and lows. There's the constant sense that this could turn into a horror movie at any point, as the naturalistic filming style indulges in continually disorienting touches. The feeling that something is badly wrong is almost overwhelming, augmented by lost whispered dialog and Keegan DeWitt's creepy minimalist score.

As the film flickers hauntingly back and forth between these two summers, character details are like treasures we have to unearth ourselves. And the actors provide the clues. Moss is a staggeringly transparent collision of affection and rage. It's unnerving to watch her struggle to maintain a sense of reality. Fugit is terrific as the cruelly goading interloper. And Waterston's role provides the goosebumps: Virginia is effortlessly superior, criticising Catherine for having money and brains while passive-aggressively undermining her at every turn.

"It must be nice to know everything all the time, your majesty," snaps Virginia, to which Catherine replies, "Well, I love you more than anything, you stupid brat!" The dialog's improvisational tone adds a blast of of heart-stopping honesty as these women swing between warmth, bitterness, humour and rivalry. All of this vividly reminds us of the pressures we feel from those who are closest to us. And it's also a striking depiction of how stressful it is to share the world with horrible people. But then, it's the ability to accept others' flaws that denotes true love.

cert 15 themes, language 23.Aug.15

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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall