By James Hancock August 26th, 2015
The critical consensus on writer-director Alex Ross Perry’s drama Queen of Earth has been almost universally positive and I’m willing to concede that the film is beautifully shot and showcases a multi-faceted performance from Elisabeth Moss. Perhaps after a summer movie season of dinosaurs, robots & superheroes many critics were in desperate need of a character driven drama as a palate cleanser and were willing to give the movie a pass on many fronts. But having now personally endured one of the most self-indulgent, tedious films I’ve ever seen, I am happy to break from the herd and declare that Queen of Earth is my least favorite movie of the year, one that has eradicated all memory of my post traumatic stress from watching the loathsome Fantastic Four and Sinister 2. If you will forgive for a moment my acting like one of the narcissistic characters featured in Queen of Earth, I feel like Alex Ross Perry made this movie as a declaration of war against me and everything I love about movies. For 90 minutes, Queen of Earth features a cast of spoiled, overprivileged characters bickering with one another in childish turf wars in between bouts of morbid self-attention. Alex Ross Perry should have just called the movie White People Pity Party and called it a night. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m the whitest man alive but this movie makes me ashamed of my own culture (but I might copyright that title for future use).
The premise of the movie, such as it is, follows Catherine (played by Elisabeth Moss) who is suffering from depression after the suicide of her father, a renowned artist that she worked for. To make matters worse, Catherine’s boyfriend has broken up with her so Catherine flees to the lake house of her friend Virginia (played by Katherine Waterston) in order to take a much-needed vacation. Once there, she and her friend begin to drift apart as Catherine’s mind starts to unravel. Virginia has a boyfriend that Catherine doesn’t care for so of course Catherine proceeds to throw regular tantrums seeking the attention of her friend eventually succumbing to a total breakdown. Elisabeth Moss is a highly talented actress and almost has the chops to make this film work in spite of the fact that Alex Ross Perry gives her nothing to work with. In the hands of a director like Ingmar Bergman, John Cassavetes or Rainer Werner Fassbinder, this type of film might have been fascinating. But Alex Ross Perry consistently confuses being a self-obsessed temperamental prima donna with being profound. Watching the characters bitch and whine ad nauseam for the entire movie made me feel like I was trapped at a stranger’s family reunion where everyone hates one another and I am powerless to stop them from lashing out. In the end, my rage at this movie boils down to storytelling. There is none. This is an improvisational acting workshop where somebody decided to turn on the camera. Movies are the most powerful form of artistic expression in human history and I couldn’t live without them, but Queen of Earth perfectly articulates everything I hate about this art form that I love so dearly. The next time I feel like I’ve done something that I shouldn’t, as a punishment I will hunt down the rest of Alex Ross Perry’s filmography and give myself a proper flogging.
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