Good Posture

 

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Life in Brooklyn is at the centre of a new venture by Dolly Wells.

 
Good Posture

Grace Van Patten and Emily Mortimer

  

I first became fully aware of the British actress Dolly Wells through her delightful supporting performance in the American film Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018). Many will have known her earlier, not least on account of the popular TV sitcom series Doll & Em which she created with Emily Mortimer and in which the two of them played alongside. Now, however, Wells adds directing to her CV with this feature film set in New York and which she penned herself. She does not appear in it although Mortimer does, albeit that on this occasion the star of the movie is Grace Van Patten.

 

As you might suppose from this, Good Posture is very much a work which, half comic and half serious, looks at life from a female perspective. It takes place in Brooklyn and as an outsider, Wells views it adroitly both in her writing of characters who are mostly American and in her very effective use of locations atmospherically shot by Ryan Eddleston. Van Patten's pivotal role is that of Lilian who, on breaking up with her black boyfriend, Nate (Gary Richardson), shares accommodation offered by a musician Don (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) and his English wife, Julia, a highly successful author - Julia being Mortimer's part. However, Julia remains a reclusive figure and, after Don walks out following an argument, it is left to Lilian and to George (Timm Sharp), whose real job is to walk the family dog, to prepare meals for Julia and to take them up to the room where she has shut herself away. Meanwhile, to spite Nate's new girlfriend who is into filming, Lilian herself announces that she is making a documentary about Julia and goes so far as to find a photographer, Sol (John Early), and to film celebrities (Zadie Smith, Jonathan Ames, Martin Amis) ready to praise Julia's novels on camera. However, this is done without Julia's knowledge and a crisis point is reached when she finds out - one on a par with Lilian's own reactions regarding her father's unexpected decision to marry again.

 

Not just in the setting she has chosen but also in her desire to avoid sentimentality and yet to present a comedy with characters real enough to be emotionally engaging, Dolly Wells seems  to be echoing the work of Nicole Holofcener such as the splendid Please Give (2009) and she obtains good performances from her cast. However, even describing the plot brings out the fact that this is a work of bits and pieces lacking a clear centre. It is, perhaps, equally revealing that the interview clips which could have been amusingly engaging with the speakers gently sending themselves up emerge as nearer to pastiche than to parody. It's odd too that they are seen both before and after Lilian is involved in filming them. There are nice things here and Good Posture (the title actually being that of one of Julia's books) can validly be described as a promising debut for Dolly Wells as writer/director. Even so, it ultimately comes over as slighter and somewhat less warmly appealing than one had hoped it would be.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Grace Van Patten, Timm Sharp, Emily Mortimer, Gary Richardson, John Early, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Condola Rashad, Norbert Leo Butz, Emmanuelle Martin, Zadie Smith, Jonathan Ames, Martin Amis.

 

Dir Dolly Wells, Pro Jamie Adams and Maggie Montieth, Screenplay Dolly Wells, Ph Ryan Eddleston, Pro Des Charlotte Abbott, Ed Adelina Bichis, Costumes Emmanuelle Martin.

 

Talland Films-Pinpoint.
92 mins. USA. 2019. Rel: 4 October 2019. Cert. 15.