Tribeca 2013: “The Pretty One” – Review by MovieManMenzel

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Being able to tell the truth isn’t always pretty.

I sat down with Jenee LaMargue on Friday April 19, 2013 and had a delightful conversation with her about all things film as well as her directorial debut, The Pretty One. LaMargue was such a pleasant person to talk to and seemed truly honored to have her film premiere at Tribeca. The film, which LaMargue not only directed by wrote, had a pretty intriguing premise which along with a solid indie film cast that including Zoe Kazan from Ruby Sparks as well as Jake Johnson from Safety Not Guaranteed had me pretty excited to see the film.

The Pretty One tells the story of two identical twin sisters Laurel and Audrey (Zoe Kazan), who live two totally different lives.  Audrey lives in the city and has a great social life, tons of confidence, and everyone thinks she’s attractive.  Laurel, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. She lives on a farm with no real goals or direction in life. One day, her sister Audrey comes home to visit Laurel and celebrate their birthday together. Audrey insists that Laurel should move in with her so that she can get away from their father Frank (John Carrol Lynch) and his new wife to be. As Laurel and Audrey head home, a tragic accident occurs leaving Laurel faced with a new opportunity that no one could ever see coming. Laurel now has the opportunity to reinvent herself and change her destiny by taking over the life that her sister originally created.

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I have to admit that when I walked into The Pretty One, I expected something completely different than what I got. The premise of the film intrigued me right from the start because it sounded so odd that I had to check it out. The film is actually more of a drama rather than a comedy, which kind of shocked me. The entire film had this heavy plot focused around Laurel being unhappy. Early in the film, Laurel gets her hair cut to perfectly match her sister Aubrey, which at first seems like a cute sister bonding moment, but quickly becomes something much more disturbing than what the viewer was initially thinking.

There is quite a lot to say about the film as it tackles a lot of different elements such as what a person thinks another  person is like vs. what that person is really like. It also tackles things like being happy with oneself and being able to compliment yourself. These things are all pretty much based on this single character that seems just stuck in life and has no real direction. This film is more or less a character study that will end up being a tad bit too strange for most audiences.

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Zoe Kazan is without a doubt the glue that holds the film together because she is the perfect mix of weird and cute that really makes the film work while trying to convey this odd story to the audience. While some who watch the film will no doubt find it odd and be turned off by it, I found it to be a pretty unique tale of an individual who was trying to lose themselves by living someone else’s life. Kazan brings such life to Laurel as a character from the country bumpkin that she portrays in the beginning to the person she later becomes as the film rolls on. I also must point out that if you aren’t a fan of Kazan then the chances of you enjoying this film are rather slim because she not only plays one character, but two.

Along with Kazan, you have Jake Johnson as Basel, who is the perfect match for the oddness of Laurel. Both Kazan and Johnson have terrific on-screen chemistry and both of them possess this level of being nerdy that really make them a great on-screen duo. There are so many scenes between them that are just so cheesy but they work because of how they  portray these characters. I personally loved the whole “Mr. & Mrs. Brown” bit that goes on throughout most of the film.

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Since we are on the topic of Kazan and Johnson, I sadly have to admit that I found the whole Laurel and Basel love story to be extremely predictable. I think it was smart, however, that Jenee LaMargue incorporated that within the film because with how odd the premise was, I think it was good that the audience would be able to get something familiar that they could relate too. As I mentioned above, Laurel is a pretty damaged character and what she does is pretty demented. I think that without the whole love story angle it would be a hard sell for most audiences to connect with Laurel.

While I did enjoy the story for the most part, a few things about it bothered me. The biggest flaw that I found with the film was the whole idea that no one could figure out that Laurel wasn’t really Audrey. I know I am suppose to not overthink when I watch movies but considering that the people at the hospital and her own father couldn’t tell; I found that to be a bit hard to swallow. I also found it hard to believe the resolution, which felt rather clichéd and simply unrealistic. It hard to go into details as to what I mean without spoiling anything, but trust me when I say what happens in the film and what would have happened if this were real life is completely different.

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I applaud Jenee LaMargue for writing and directing a film that dared to be different on certain levels. I think the idea was something that you don’t see everyday and if you seen this type of thing before, it would probably be the plot of some badly executed horror flick. I think as a first time writer/director LaMargue did a solid job and will only continue to improve as she keeps making films. The only negative thing I could really mention about the direction is simply some of the shots of Laurel throughout the film were really oddly framed. I couldn’t tell if this was done on purpose or if it was because they only used a single camera that they didn’t adjust while shooting scenes between Laurel and her father Frank. It was the only thing about direction that really stood out otherwise I found it to be well shot and well crafted.

All in all, The Pretty One is definitely not a movie for everyone and will be a hard sell to a non-film festival audience. I personally enjoyed the unique tale along with its odd and quirky characters. It will probably do well in the festival circuit and be adored by those who like things that take risk Those who really appreciate Kazan and Johnson as creative artists will enjoy it as well. So I guess I should with the suggestion that if you are looking to see something that is different from the norm than I recommend giving The Pretty One a shot.

MovieManMenzel’s final rating for The Pretty One is a 7 out of 10.

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