Thursday, September 3, 2015

It's intense, but to what end?

Not long after the suicide of her famous father, Catherine is dumped by her boyfriend. We know this because director Alex Ross Perry's Queen of Earth begins with an infuriated and aggrieved Catherine (Elizabeth Moss) screaming directly into the camera, attacking her former boyfriend with the reddened virulence of an infected wound.

Clearly Catherine needs a break. Perhaps that's why Perry's intensely muddled tale takes Catherine to the country for a post-breakup retreat with her supposed best friend Virginia (Katherine Waterston), who's staying in her the lakefront home of her parents.

A reticent Virginia looks on as Catherine, whose father was a celebrated painter, draws Virginia's portrait or wanders about in her nightgown.

Occasionally, one of Virginia's neighbors (Patrick Fugit) visits. He's having a fling with Virginia. Catherine can't conceal her disgust for him, at one point clobbering Fugit's Rich with one of the screen's most withering insults.

She tells him that he's the reason smarter and better people fall into life-threatening depressions.

Occasionally flashing back to a happier time -- the previous summer at this lakefront home -- Perry makes it increasingly clear that the relationship between these two "best friends" is riven with antagonism.

An over-reliance on unkind close-ups of faces fills Queen of the Earth with Bergmanesque echoes, but the movie can seem more pretentious than profound, and Keegan DeWitt's edgy score makes you wonder how long it will take for something disastrous to happen.

Moss, who appeared in Perry's brilliant Listen Up Philip and who is familiar from her fine work on Madmen, gives Queen of the Earth her ferocious all, but this is a case in which a movie about woman who's coming apart never really comes together.

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