In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb large ouygaatyh4jzithj6fi3uyf31ri

Wonder

You’ll shed a tear or two—especially if you’re a parent—and they’ll be totally earned.

Thumb mv5bztg3yteznjytzty2ns00yjnmltlhnjutzti2m2e5ndi4m2njxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymzi3mdezmzm . v1 sy1000 cr0 0 675 1000 al

Mudbound

The film invites us to observe its characters, to hear their inner voices, to see what they see and to challenge our own preconceived notions…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Chaz's Journal Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

The Pretty One

The Pretty One Movie Review
  |  

Zoe Kazan breathes fresh, exciting life into a tried-and-true high concept, playing opposite herself as twentysomething identical twins in "The Pretty One." Actually, if we stop and count, she's playing four incarnations of the same couple of characters.

We first see her as the frumpy but sweetly naïve Laurel, who never left her family's rural California home. She stuck around after her mother's death to look after her melancholy father (John Carroll Lynch), even creepily going so far as to wear her mom's old-fashioned dresses. Kazan also plays Laurel's twin sister, Audrey, the stylish and sophisticated "pretty one" of the film's title. Audrey took off long ago, lives in the city and works at a boutique real estate agency.

Advertisement

But eventually a twist of fate occurs, and Kazan also ends up playing Laurel pretending to be Audrey, in a sort of heightened version of the vapid party girl's personality. And ultimately, she plays the best version of Laurel as herself; she's blossomed, she's radiant, but she's maintained her core sense of decency.

It's a lot to ask of one actress and it's a tricky feat to pull off; Kazan, with her bitty voice and big eyes, manages both the girlishness and the confidence of the Laurel/Audrey conundrum charmingly. 

Writer-director Jenee LaMarque also tries to pull off a tricky feat by melding several different tones in this part romantic comedy/part coming-of-age drama. While she doesn't always hit the mark exactly, she at least shows great ambition, and she draws some lovely moments from her actors.

It's the twins' birthday at the film's start. Laurel has just lost her virginity, finally, and is enjoying a newfound rush of womanhood—that is, until Audrey swoops in and steals the spotlight, as usual, at their shared celebration. (The visual effects when Kazan is playing opposite herself are pretty seamless. They're also a great reminder of what a big difference a little eyeliner can make.)

Later, when the sisters are on their way back home from a trip into town, they get into a major accident in the family pickup truck that leaves Audrey dead and Laurel in the hospital with temporary amnesia. (Not a spoiler, folks—this happens pretty early.) Yes, this is a plot device, as is the fact that Laurel just got a sleek haircut which happens to make her look exactly like Audrey. (As is the fact that they were such strikingly polar opposites to begin with, come to think of it.)

Their resemblance is so great that the doctors and nurses believe Laurel's the one who died and Audrey's the one who lived. Even their own grieving father is fooled, and Laurel is just mixed up enough that at first even she's not sure who she is.

Advertisement

After Laurel undergoes the surreal experience of attending her own funeral—where she hears barely a kind word about herself in eulogy—she decides to take over Audrey's life, move into her apartment and assume her work responsibilities. She doesn't know that Audrey's life included a married boyfriend (Ron Livingston in a half-baked subplot) and a slacker tenant in the other half of her duplex (Jake Johnson). Naturally, since Audrey hated the slacker, Laurel hits it off with him instantly.

From this ghoulish premise, LaMarque tries to wrest something light and lovely. The scenes between Kazan and Johnson feature an effortless kind of banter; between this and "Drinking Buddies", Johnson is increasingly revealing himself as an adorably sardonic romantic lead. And Kazan continues to assert her versatility and her intriguing screen presence, a mix of twee hipster and Kewpie-doll silent film star.

So you wish the material were more consistent for these two. Some moments are screechy, others aren't deeply emotional enough. The in-between moments in which LaMarque hits just the right note can be charming, though, and they promise better things to come.

Popular Blog Posts

Why I Stopped Watching Woody Allen Movies

Stop watching movies made by assholes. It'll be OK.

“Call of Duty” and “Wolfenstein” Redefine the Modern WWII Game

A review of two of the biggest games of 2017, a pair that use World War II in very different ways.

Netflix's Marvel Spin-off "The Punisher" is a Lightweight

A review of Netflix's new Marvel series, "The Punisher."

The Messy Women of "Thor: Ragnarok"

Hela and Valkyrie are unusual for Marvel and blockbuster movies in general. Both are messy, complicated figures not n...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus