Review: Queen of Earth

Queen of Earth
7 10

PLOT: Following the death of her father and the end of a relationship, Catherine (Elisabeth Moss) retreats to a secluded lake house with her long-time best friend Ginny (Katherine Waterston). Once there, the relationship starts to unravel, especially after Ginny receives a mysterious visitor (Patrick Fugit). 

REVIEW: Director Alex Ross Perry’s previous film, LISTEN UP PHILIP was a movie I admired at Sundance back in 2014. Despite the mumble core trappings, which centered on an egotistical author (played by Jason Schwartzman), the movie was highly ambitious and atypical of the genre. One of the most intriguing aspects of the movie was a long aside the film took where it sprung off into a side-story focused on the title character’s neglected girlfriend, played by Elisabeth Moss. Many who saw the film were blown away by her performance and it’s no wonder that for the follow-up, Perry’s given the actress a star vehicle of her own.


QUEEN OF THE EARTH is certainly a bold feature. Markedly different from LISTEN UP PHILIP, this one delves deeply into the surreal. The trailers cheekily sold it as a kind of exploitation movie but while it’s certainly a retro drama, rather than reach back to anything from the Grindhouse genre Perry’s influences seem to be from an artier spectrum. Many are comparing this to Roman Polanski’s REPULSION and Ingmar Bergman’s PERSONA; Both of those are apt, with Perry laying in heavy doses of the surreal, with the eerie music by Keegan DeWitt seeming especially like something taken out of those films.


Like PERSONA, this is mostly a two-hander with the tension being drawn from the unexpected ways the relationship between the two damaged women starts to fray. There’s a real degree of affection and hate that Moss and Waterson are able to convey that makes for a dynamic and highly intriguing watch. In addition to Polanski and Bergman, Perry also seems influenced by Robert Altman’s 3 WOMEN and the films of John Cassavetes, especially with regard to the latter’s aesthetic on something like A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE. Scenes are sometimes technically imperfect, but this seems to be a conscious choice, with this aspect giving the film a sense of urgency that it might not otherwise have.

Yet, for all of its stylistic flair, QUEEN OF THE EARTH remains performance driven. The fact that Elisabeth Moss is amazing should surprise no one, as her work on Mad Men and in Top of the Lake has already established her as one of her generation’s best actresses. Here she’s able to uncomfortably convey the unpredictability of a woman in the midst of a nervous breakdown. Perry makes an interesting choice crisscrossing back and forth between Moss at her most unhinged and her a year before where her issues were only starting to come to a head. Moss is able to suggest that the character, while only recently having gone around-the-bend, was always heading in that direction based on the naïve way she led her life – being in thrall and devoted to her unpredictable, rich artist father with his suicide leaving her a mess.


Waterston, who made a big impression in INHERENT VICE is no less effective as the seemingly more stable of the two, even though she’s clearly got major issues of her own including a barely suppressed disdain for her best friend and seemingly anyone else who crosses her path. Meanwhile, Patrick Fugit plays a kind a trigger, whose mere presence upsets the delicate balance between the two, leading to drama and despair (something QUEEN OF EARTH is heavy on).

While QUEEN OF EARTH is certainly arty, niche-fare; it’s a very intriguing film with two extremely dynamic performances by Moss and Waterston. It’s rare that this kind of blatantly arty type of movie gets a prominent release and I urge anyone interested in something very unconventional to check it out.

Source: JoBlo.com



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