September 25, 2017

Review: GOLDEN EXITS at the 2017 Wisconsin Film Festival

Review: Wisconsin Film Festival
Golden Exits | Alex Ross Perry | USA | 2017 | 94 min
Screened at 2017 Wisconsin Film Festival»

Edwanike Harbour looks at Alex Ross Perry’s interweaving portrait of Brooklynite malaise, Golden Exits, screened at the 2017 Wisconsin Film Festival.

Like many films set in New York, the city itself plays a pivotal character in Alex Ross Perry’s latest, Golden Exits. This time the cozy borough of Brooklyn provides a supporting role as Perry directs an all-star cast to examine a group of twenty and forty somethings who navigate a complex series of relationships.

Naomi (Emily Browning) arrives for a summer internship working with Nick (Adam Horovitz) who archives his late father-in-laws materials in a cramped basement office. Her only other contact in the city is a family friend, Buddy (perennial favorite Jason Schwartzman) who is married to Jess (Analeigh Tipton). Nick cheated on his wife Alyssa (a matured Chloë Sevigny) in the past so she’s distrustful of having the young Australian woman working so closely with him. Nick’s sister in law, Gwendolyn (Mary Louise Parker) does little to quell Alyssa’s suspicions. Sam (a mesmerizing Lily Rabe) provides another layer of complexity as Jess’s sister and Gwendolyn’s assistant, who is quite world-weary before the age of thirty. All of the characters bear some connection to one another in some fleeting or in some instances, penetrative way.

Part Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage and part Woody Allen’s New York Stories, Perry makes no bones about who his influences are. Perry can pay homage to his influences while still maintaining his own voice throughout the narrative, however. Perry’s signature caustic dialogue appears throughout the film, particularly as Sam harangues her sister about what she sees as lacking in her life. Sam is one of the truly free characters in this film, but can’t truly see her life for what it could be rather than the emptiness she feels. She knows she does not want to end up like Gwendolyn but feels the inevitability of an unhappy future. Her optimistic sister Jess offers another frame of reference for Sam, but Perry counterpoints that as Buddy runs carefree throughout the city leaving Jess confused and alone.

The glancing connections the characters have with one another provide many memorable but often uneasy moments. Perry has a way of making the most detestable characters somewhat sympathetic. Nick and Buddy behave poorly around Naomi. Buddy is quite smarmy, but not as as aloof as Schwartzman’s Phillip in Listen Up Phillip. Buddy proves himself to be less than trustworthy as he lies to Jess about his whereabouts. Jess fades into the background more than she really needed to but this is indicative of how Buddy treats her. Nick foolishly visits Naomi at her apartment when stumbling drunk. You want Nick to be a good guy but Perry knows better and he wants his audience to know better.

We may be victims of the choices we make but no seems to suffer as much as those around us. Friends, neighbors, significant others and the like sometimes are never enough. Nick really exemplifies what it means to accept where you are in the life that you’ve created for yourself. Perry drives home the message that maybe no one really knows what they want until they can feel it slipping away from them.