Movie Review: Queen of Earth (2015)
Queen of Earth (2015)
Director: Alex Ross Perry
Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Katherine Waterston, Patrick Fugit
Synopsis: Two female friends find their friendship tested during a summer holiday when one of them is dumped by her boyfriend.
The imposing spectre of Ingmar Bergman haunts Alex Ross Perry’s Queen of Earth, informing every insight into the fragile psyches of its two female protagonists. Subtle flavourings of other influences – Altman and Fassbinder in particular – are also apparent, but it’s Bergman that dominates. Unfortunately, Perry’s preoccupation with emulating the style and ideology of his cinematic hero means that Queen of Earth wallows in the same pit of self-indulgent dismay and despair without offering any fresh perspective on the frailties of the human condition.
Its story takes place over one week during which, as they do each year, Catherine (Elizabeth Moss – Girl, Interrupted) and Virginia (Katherine Waterston – Robot & Frank, The Factory), holiday at the lakeside lodge owned by Virginia’s family. This year is different, though, because, as we see in the opening scene, Catherine has just been dumped by her boyfriend (Kentucker Audley – Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) of just over a year, and to say she isn’t taking it well is something of an understatement. The previous year he had accompanied her to Virginia’s lakeside retreat, a decision which, as we’re shown in flashback scenes, didn’t go down too well with Virginia, who was clearly undergoing some kind of personal crisis of her own which she felt unable to share because of his presence, and which Catherine made no effort to investigate. This year, as if to pay Catherine back for her previous year’s selfishness, Virginia observes Catherine’s disintegrating mental condition while encouraging visits from Rich (Patrick Fugit), a neighbour with whom she knows Catherine doesn’t get on.
Catherine and Virginia have been friends since childhood, but theirs is a relationship that endures for no other reason than it always has. They seem to care little for one another, and engage in barbed verbal duels that go nowhere and infuriate them both. They certainly seem to get no pleasure out of their friendship. Not only does this create a bleak perspective, it also means we tend to see the two women in a distinctly unfavourable light which makes it impossible to connect with them emotionally, or to even care for them as human beings. These are people you would go out of your way to avoid, and Perry’s oblique method of telling their story – characters consistently talk around their issues rather than addressing them – makes Queen of Earth a difficult and dispiriting watch which shares the opaque nature and impenetrability of Bergman’s work, but little of its worth.
(Reviewed 11th July 2016)