Golden Exits

Studio: Sony Pictures and Vertical Entertainment
Directed by Alex Ross Perry

Feb 14, 2018 Web Exclusive
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Golden Exits is a film about boring, contemplative, duplicitous people who are miserable with their lots in life. After a brief sequence where Naomi (Emily Browning) sings on a stoop, the film moves to an argument between Nick (Adam Horovitz), his wife Alyssa (Chloe Sevigny) and her sister Gwen (Mary-Louise Parker). He is an archivist preserving his father-in-law’s work after his death who has just hired Naomi to help, which is clearly the crux of the disagreement. It’s implied here, and expanded upon later, that Nick has been unfaithful in the past – possibly with one of his previous assistants.

Cue Buddy (Jason Schwartzman), his wife Jess (Analeigh Tipton), and her sister Sam (Lily Rabe). They form something of a younger parallel to the previous trio – and there’s plenty of actual, specific overlap connecting them instead of just thematic links. It’s like a small-scale Short Cuts.

And it’s not good. Part of the problem is the lack of levity. Where writer-director Alex Ross Perry explored narcissist men who cannot get out of their own heads and the women they tear asunder with their self-absorption in Listen Up Philip, it wasn’t an endless parade of misery without a sense of humour. That movie expertly used narration to create a sense of observation, and depicts the men played by Schwartzman and Jonatan Pryce as useless fools who have bought into their own hype. It’s counter-balanced by an excellent performance by Elisabeth Moss who finds her own personal strength when she moves on.

Unfortunately, the women in Golden Exits don’t have much to do other than brood, stew, and complain about the men in their lives – or in the case of Sam, the lack of men. Gwen is more independent, though she’s written as bitter beyond repair, feigning strength through travel though she’s draped over with a dark cloud of loneliness.

It’s exhausting. The problem isn’t the fact that the characters aren’t likeable – plenty of wonderful movies, including Listen Up Philip, are centered around deplorable people – it’s that they’re dull, uninteresting, and have nothing of worth to say. What? Relationships are complicated and often have expiry dates that those involved ignore on the basis of comfort and routine? And sometimes people create temptation and other times they back away from it? Okay, fine. But it all rings hollow, like Perry was more interested in figuring out how to move his pawns closer together within the machinations of randomness than in constructing a satisfying narrative with multi-dimensional characters.

Praise is due, however, to the overall composition if the nuts and bolts of the script are wanting. Sean Price Williams’ cinematography is muted, often fuzzy, but also intimate. One specific sequence positions the camera up high as Naomi enters the basement office where she and Nick are working on the archive. It is quietly observant, peeking into her routine and her headspace. It also creates one of the few genuinely emotionally resonant moments in the film because she’s at a crossroads and it just lets the verbosity rest. Combined with Keegan DeWitt’s excellent, layered score, it’s not a total waste.

Perry is capable of great films, even those focusing on reprehensible narcissists, but Golden Exits wallows far too much in its own seriousness and the problems that just don’t feel important enough to warrant the attention given. Maybe if the able cast were given characters with depth – and maybe if it didn’t feel like low-rent Woody Allen, anyway – it would have been something worthwhile.

Author rating: 4/10

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