Alex Ross Perry & The Smug Machine


By Mikhail Karadimov August 28th, 2015

I don’t know who Alex Ross Perry is, but he certainly thinks highly of himself.

Last night, I had the distinct displeasure of venturing to the IFC Theater on West 4th Street to catch a 9:30 showing of Perry’s Queen of Earth. I was looking forward to it. Mainly, it’s 90-minute running time. It’s a modern day miracle whenever a new movie is capable of keeping itself under two hours.

But, alas, to my profound annoyance, the movie didn’t feel so short. On the contrary: it felt interminable. Endless. I was scared that a stretch of eternity had presented itself before me, a distant point that would never grow, no matter how much I walked ran or sprinted toward it. Queen of Earth stubbornly refused to end. The torture was only exacerbated once I realized that I would be spending that endless stretch of eternity with an ensemble of characters comprised of complete and nihilistic pieces of shit. Bona fide pieces of shit. Legit. Authentic. Smelly and fetid and nauseating.

Would you like to know the film’s central conceit?

Simply put: a poor man’s Repulsion (65). A woman goes insane. Or perhaps the insanity was already there, and we witnessed the opening of the hungry maw, or maybe she was fine, adjusted, wholesome, and then the madness intervened and pushed her along a steep descent into the abyss.

Who knows?

More importantly: who cares?


The film is self-indulgent and terribly full of itself; it’s a churning, spinning smug machine polluting cinema with its unwitting cynicism and general suckery. The characters spew and spit and hawk out vile wads of verbal phlegm. Unrealistically so. They see a young woman with lipstick smeared past the defining lines of her lips, with ragged and tangled hair, with eyes wide open, lids and brows risen passed the point of sanity, they watch her as she stumbles and crawls out of the room, shrieking, swatting her hands at invisible monsters, and what’s their reaction? They laugh. They watch this troubled woman slink into the abyss of madness, and they laugh and jest at her expense.

Who the fuck would do that?

Scratch that: I know there are people out there who would laugh at such a sight. But a whole party of people? No. Uh-uh. I smell bullshit. I smell feigned importance.

Unfortunately for me, and my friend Josh—who I involuntarily/ignorantly led into this viper’s nest of brain-boring tedium—our relief at seeing the credits appear was short lived. In the darkness, all the way up front, I could see one of the IFC guys moving in the faint glow of the projector’s light. He was setting up collapsible chairs. Three of them. I turned around to look at the exit.

Shit!: the night wasn’t over. Apparently Alex Ross Perry and star Elisabeth Moss were in attendance.

They wished to share with us, to serve us Qs for our every A. Watching the movie, and remembering what I had heard about Perry’s previous film, Listen Up Philip (14), I suspected Perry might be an asshole, a derelict of poor behavior, of sanctimonious self-regard. But these were mere suspicions. I thought, ‘Maybe, just maybe, there’s a point to all this acerbic cynicism, this depiction of such shit behavior, this monotonous view of social wastelands stripped of all etiquette.’

But there isn’t. Alex Ross Perry, simply put, is a smug little man.

After a terribly awkward and jittery ten-minute conversation between Moss, Perry, and the theater’s resident moderator, the floor opened up to the audience for questions.

“Hello, Mr. Perry, thank you for the film. Quick question: where did you shoot the movie?”

And without missing a beat, as if the swift incision was too sweet to pass, Perry responded: “In a house.”

Uncomfortable laughter emerged from the audience in sporadic bubble pops. Nervous laughers hoping to dispel the uneasy tension in the air.

“Yes, I understand, but whereabouts?”

Thankfully, Perry buckled and filled us in. Some town upstate in the Hudson Valley, about two hours away from the city. Or maybe it wasn’t in the Hudson Valley. I’m not sure. I was too busy scoffing and rolling my eyes and hoping that Perry would leave already so I could empty my bladder and tear his movie apart with Josh while digging into a plate of fries.


Next question: “Would you say this is a personal film?”

Perry’s response or rebuke or solidifying indicator that he hates the very people he makes movies for: “Well, uh, I wrote, directed, and produced it. So….yeah, I would say it’s personal.”

And once Perry got it out of his system and demonstrated just how much smarter he was than everyone else in the room, he explained the film’s connection to his make-up, his disposition, the stuff that molds people’s themes and motifs. He explained that the film came from a place of overexposure—or rather: the sensation of overexposure. Apparently, after Listen Up Philip, Perry felt smothered by the constant questions, the constant attention, bestowed upon a director who makes minor festival circuit drivel. He wanted to get away from it all; he wanted to be left alone in his monastery of thought, so that he could better acquaint himself with the contours of his navel.

And that’s it.

Alex Ross Perry made a movie because he was paid too much attention for Listen Up Philip. The poor soul—must have felt like a rabbit sliced and diced between the claws of wolves. Such an auteur should never be bothered. Never!  




Don’t watch this movie. Don’t watch Queen of Earth. Don’t watch Listen Up Philip or The Color Wheel (11). Please don’t. Because, if you do, you just might spook weak-willed Perry. Even worse: you might cause him to shrink even further into himself and make an even more reflective and inner-sanctioned and trite construct regarding the shittiness of one Alex Ross Perry, who I doubt is aware of just how terrible and selfish his characters are.

And I just don’t need that in my life.

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