With its middle class New York milieu and a jazz inflected score by Keegan DeWitt, Alex Ross Perry’s Golden Exits may draw simplistic comparisons with Woody Allen, but the filmmaker whose work it evokes most is Alan Rudolph. In Rudolph’s best films - Welcome to L.A.; Remember My Name; Trouble in Mind; Choose Me - the intersecting lives of a group of people are thrown into turmoil by the arrival of an outsider.
In Perry’s film the outsider is Naomi (Emily Browning), a 25-year-old Australian who moves to Brooklyn for a few months to take up a position assisting archivist Nick (former Beastie Boy turned naturally gifted actor Adam Horowitz), who is cataloguing the life of his deceased father-in-law, the former publisher of a literary magazine.
The idea of her husband spending eight hours a day in a cramped basement with an attractive young woman doesn’t sit well with Nick’s wife Alyssa (Chloë Sevigny), still struggling to trust him following an earlier instance of infidelity. The goading of Alyssa’s acid-tongued sister Gwendolyn (Mary-Louise Parker), who is reluctantly funding Nick’s project, doesn’t help her insecurities.
Stuck in a big city with no real friends, Naomi looks up Buddy (Jason Schwartzman), a local Brooklynite whom she once met on a childhood trip to New York. Happily married to the adorable Jess (Analeigh Tipton), Buddy is uncomfortable at the forthright attitude of Naomi, and tells the Aussie that he can’t spend time with her alone, but will do his best to introduce her to potential suitors.
As penned and pictured by Perry and rendered by Browning, Naomi is a captivating character, a ticking time-bomb whose awareness of her appeal to the opposite sex is offset by an innocent naivety. When we first meet her, she’s sitting on a brownstone stoop warbling a rendition of Russ Ballard’s ‘New York Groove’, but her emotional poker face makes it unclear if we’re witnessing the beginning or end of her Big Apple arc.
The article continues after this ad
Through no fault of her own, Naomi’s trip to America is doomed from the outset by the insecurities of the tightly knit group of locals she encounters. A couple of weeks into her arrival and Nick is drunkenly arriving on her doorstep late at night, throwing caution to the wind and potentially out the window with his marriage. It’s as uncomfortable a scene as you could endure, our sympathy for the pathetic and misguided Nick tempered by the potential for male aggression. The ensuing glimpses of Nick and Naomi’s irreparably damaged working arrangement are difficult to witness, the spurned older man barely looking up from his work when his assistant asks for permission to go to lunch.
Seeing the potential for damage, and perhaps motivated by jealousy for a young woman who reminds her of herself at that age, Gwendolyn imposes an impossible deadline on Nick’s project in order to break up the pairing. Alyssa, unaware of how unattracted Naomi really is to her pathetic husband, becomes so riddled with paranoia it begins to negatively affect her career as a therapist.
Perhaps the most fascinating dynamic is that shared between Naomi and Buddy, the latter breaking his self-imposed rules of avoiding the former as he continually sneaks away from his wife to spend time with the Aussie, pushing ‘platonic’ as far as any definition of the word will allow. His motivations are debatable - is he hoping to succumb to Naomi’s obvious charms or using her to test the strength of his resolve and his relationship with Jess?
Perry doesn’t give us any easy answers to the questions raised by his characters’ complexity. Eschewing the traditional tropes of the ensemble drama, Perry allows his characters to run away from him, and he’s commendably uninterested in having them learn any trite life lessons. Naomi’s presence doesn’t damage their lives, rather it merely exposes the fragility they’ve kept hidden away until her arrival.
“People never make films about ordinary people who don’t really do anything,” Naomi moans to Nick in an early discussion on her cinematic tastes. Of course, plenty of filmmakers do exactly that, but few can make ennui as enthralling as Perry does here. The magnum opus of Perry’s still relatively burgeoning career, Golden Exits is a film about ordinary people who don’t really do anything, and watching their inaction is as beguiling as cinema gets.
4 ½ stars out of 5
Directed by: Alex Ross Perry
Starring: Emily Browning, Jason Schwartzman, Chloë Sevigny, Adam Horowitz, Mary-Louise Parker, Analeigh Tipton, Lily Rabe, Kate Lyn Sheil
originally published: 2018-02-26 12:18:03
From Our Magazine
REVIEW: The Endless
Moorhead and Benson isn’t an accountancy firm, as the moniker might suggest. Together, the writing/directing/acting duo of Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson have formed one of the most fascinating filmmaking forces to emerge over the last decade. The pair gained much acclaim for their second film, 2014’s Spring. A Lovecraft meets Linklater hybrid in which a young American falls for a mysterious Italian girl who is secretly a tentacled creature feeding off tourists, it’s one of the most romantic movies to ever come out of the horror genre.
Death of an Umbrella Salesman
A door to door salesman is likely among the worst jobs one can imagine.
Images come to mind of middle-aged men in cheap suits attempting to clean rugs soiled by a handful of dirt with a shiny, new vacuum or a bookish fellow hawking encyclopedias. But imagine an even stranger product sold door to door like an umbrella. That’s what Stanley Grimp faces in Death of An Umbrella Salesman by Jersey Shore filmmaker Steve Herold.
Feast Your Ears
It’s hard to explain just how powerful the movement of free form progressive FM radio truly was. When it emerged in the 1960s, it was unlike anything anybody had ever heard. Instead of listening to the same five hit songs over and over again, you might hear five straight songs about rain or five songs that featured the same guitarists in different bands. There were no playlists, no corporations in charge, only DJs.
REVIEW: "Phantom Thread"
Should you decide to visit your local cinema to take in a showing of Phantom Thread, Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest offbeat character study, you might want to make a bit more effort with your wardrobe than you’re accustomed to for such outings. After spending 130 minutes totally immersed in the world of 1950s high fashion, I felt like an utter rube walking out of the cinema in my jeans and hoody combo.
EVENT CALENDAR Wednesday, Mar 21, 2018
Add your events to the calendar for free, Click here
Sorry, no events listed for today. Here are some upcoming events.