Queen of Earth

 

starstarstar

 


An extremely interesting drama which, for me at least, fails to sustain its impact.

 
Queen of Earth

The one and only Elisabeth Moss 

 

Although only one previous film by Alex Ross Perry has been seen here - 2014’s Listen Up Philip - this new work is immediately recognisable as being the work of the same auteur, and that is so despite the fact that this time around he offers us not a comedy but a drama. That earlier film revealed him  to be a highly literate writer who was clearly an intellectual and had a willingness (not always beneficial) to deal in characters who were frequently unsympathetic. Stylistically it hinted at some French influences, a liking for the fade to black and a fondness for close-ups. Now Queen of Earth uses a close-up of its central figure, Catherine, as an opening shot recording a highly emotional scene in which she dismisses her unreliable boyfriend, James. In this powerful sequence the camera is very much on her and she is played by Elisabeth Moss who was so affecting in Listen Up Philip

 

All of this boded well for Queen of Earth and much of it does indeed fascinate but, just as I fail to understand the significance of the title, I find the film ultimately becoming elusive and thus losing its grip. The story concerns two best friends, Catherine and Virginia. The latter (well cast Katherine Waterston) realising that Catherine is shattered by the break-up takes her on a visit to her quiet country retreat only to find this comforting gesture being met by sharp rebukes. Indeed, in Catherine we have again a character who is frequently unsympathetic, but we do know that her father, a victim of depression, has just committed suicide and since she too appears to be in a depressed state we make allowances for her.

 

Flashbacks and confidences between her and Virginia bring out the full past history with James and Virginia too has had her problems but now has a sexual partner in her neighbour Rich (Patrick Fugit) which makes Catherine jealous. As the film goes on we suspect that Catherine is suffering a mental  breakdown (shades, perhaps, of Polanski’s classic Repulsion) and we reach a stage when some scenes shown might be just taking place in her head. But one is never sure and, indeed, at least one critic sees Virginia as Catherine’s alter ego which certainly did not occur to me. Despite a good cast and the film’s individuality of tone, it becomes difficult not to lose patience with it. By the time that we reach a conclusion that positively leaves it up to us to interpret things for ourselves we may have ceased to care. And that's a pity because there is much here of quality, especially in the earlier stages.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Katherine Waterston, Patrick Fugit, Kentucker Audley, Keith Poulson, Kate Lyn Sheil, Daniel April, Craig Butta.

 

Dir Alex Ross Perry, Pro Elisabeth Moss, Alex Ross Perry, Adam Piotrowitz and Joe Swanberg, Screenplay Alex Ross Perry, Ph Sean Price Williams, Pro Des Anna Bak-Kvapil, Ed Robert Greene, Music Keegan DeWitt, Costumes Amanda Ford.

 

Faliro House Productions/Washington Square Films/Forager Film Company/Her Majesty September-Eureka Entertainment Limited.
89 mins. USA/Greece. 2015. Rel: 1 July 2016. Cert. 15.