Horse Girl

 

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A calling card for the versatile Alison Brie.


Horse Girl 

Alison Brie and Molly Shannon

 

Like writer-director Jeff Baena’s three previous films (Life After Beth, Joshy, The Little Hours), Horse Girl had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, before a wider streaming release on Netflix. The drama follows Sarah, an endearing craft store associate, who leads a rather lonely life after the suicide of her mother. She divides her time between work, zumba, visiting the stable of her childhood horse, and obsessively watching her favorite TV show, Purgatory (a wry dig at network television, with cameos from TV regulars Matthew Gray Gubler and Robin Tunney.) Sleepwalking, bloody noses, loss of time and vivid dreams lead Sarah to begin questioning her own reality.      

 

Having cut her teeth in both comedy and drama, Alison Brie co-writes and co-produces a strong acting showcase for herself with Baena. What begins as a likeable, sensitive and engrossing character study, soon melds into unsettling territory, before fully descending down the rabbit hole in a disassociating third act. The deadpan character-driven comedy of Baena’s previous work is present here as well, providing solid supporting roles for Molly Shannon and John Reynolds.    

 

Despite strong intentions, the ambiguous nature of the film is, shall we say, alienating. While telling the story from Sarah’s perspective is admirable, the intent of the film is lost in the fog. There are interesting themes and recurring visuals at play, but it’s often difficult to determine the purpose of the exploration. Is this a film about mental illness or a work of science fiction? The indecision of how much to reveal inadvertently undermines the film, creating a truly disaffecting experience – but perhaps that was the goal.  

 

CHAD KENNERK

 

Cast: Alison Brie, Debby Ryan, John Reynolds, Molly Shannon, John Ortiz, Paul Reiser, Robin Tunney, Matthew Gray Gubler, David Paymer, Jay Duplass.

 

Dir Jeff Baena, Pro Mel Eslyn, Alana Carithers, Jeff Baena and Alison Brie, Screenplay Jeff Baena and Alison Brie, Ph Sean McElwee, Pro Des Ashley Fenton and Megan Fenton, Ed Ryan Brown, Music Josiah Steinbrick and Jeremy Zuckerman, Costumes Beth Morgan.

 

Duplass Brothers Productions-Netflix.

103 mins. USA. 2020. Rel: 7 February 2020. Cert. 15.