Wednesday, August 26, 2015

“Queen Of Earth”– Movie Review



This week, I attended the opening night screening of the new drama, “Queen Of Earth” at The Film Society Of Lincoln Center; it stars Elisabeth Moss and was written and directed by Alex Ross Perry.


After suffering multiple personal losses, a woman visits a friend in order to recuperate – but when she starts experiencing mental problems, what impact will this have on their friendship?


Catherine (Moss) has certainly had a rough go of it lately – between recently losing her father and just having been dumped by her long-time boyfriend, it’s quite understandable that she’s feeling stressed.  Ever the good friend, Virginia (Katherine Waterston) offers to let Catherine stay with her at her parents’ lakeside house while her family is away.  Desperate and lonely, Catherine immediately takes Virginia up on her most generous offer – which is probably where things begin to go awry.  Upon arrival, there is a palpable sense of tension between the two women.

It doesn’t take long for Virginia to notice Catherine isn’t seeming like her normal self; her erratic behavior is unnerving and worrisome – not to mention awkward when around other people who don’t know her quite so well.  To make matters worse, Catherine is creating uncomfortable situations for Rich (Patrick Fugit), Virginia’s next door neighbor who frequently visits in the hope that he can somehow manage to develop something of a romantic relationship with Virginia.  Eventually, the two don’t even bother trying to conceal their hostile feelings toward each other.

After a few days, Catherine seems to be spiraling further into a state of mental distress, locking herself in her room, refusing to eat and abandoning her own personal care.  Virginia can only take so much of this behavior before she begins to get angry at Catherine; although she claims to be deeply concerned about her friend, she is also being severely inconvenienced herself, not to mention the fact that Catherine is turning increasingly hostile to her as well.  With the two seeming to be approaching their breaking point, will their friendship survive or will Catherine’s mental condition force an irreparable rift between the two? 


Enough cannot be said about how amazing Moss’ performance is in “Queen Of Earth”; the sheer expression on her face – the look in her eyes, in particular – is enough to convey the deeply-rooted level of insanity the character of Catherine is experiencing.  Add to this the fact that she is able to make Catherine seem completely normal via various flashbacks and that makes her performance all the more impressive.  Considering the fact that Catherine starts out weird and evolves progressively weirder, it’s a significant feat that Moss was able to maintain such a restrained portrayal.

As far as the movie itself, “Queen Of Earth” also seems to be suffering from its own severe personality disorder; its schizophrenia makes it appear as though it can’t make up its mind whether it wants to be a straight drama or a thriller – and the fact that it’s having difficulty finding its own identity proves a substantial problem, especially since the film has such an ambiguous ending.  Perry keeps hinting that it might be more than just a character study about how one woman deals with loss, but these merely turn out to be teases done with the intention of misdirecting the audience. 

Following the screening, writer/director Alex Ross Perry and star/co-producer Elisabeth Moss engaged in a question and answer session.  Perry said that although his last couple of films were released about a year after production, he did not consider this a particularly fast pace; for him, keeping this sort of a schedule feels about right – anything shorter and he’d feel rushed and anything longer would make him feel it was dragging on.  Since the movie was shot in chronological order (instead of out-of-sequence, which is the case with most films), Moss was asked if this and the fact that it was mostly confined to a single set made it feel like a stage play; she replied that it did not because with a play, there is commonly a month of rehearsal, which is rare with a motion picture (Moss recently starred on Broadway in a revival of “The Heidi Chronicles”). 

Queen of Earth (2015) on IMDb

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