Director: Jenée LaMarque Writer: Jenée LaMarque Cast: Zoe Kazan, Jake Johnson, John Carroll Lynch, Shae D’lyn, Frankie Shaw, Ron Livingston Rating: R Runtime: 90 min
One film I regret missing at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival is The Pretty One, starring the very talented Zoe Kazan. The wait is now finally over, and it has been a totally worthwhile wait.
Directed and written by Jenée LaMarque, the film follows two identical twin sisters – the awkward, living-at-home Laurel and the confident, independent Audrey – both portrayed by Zoe Kazan. The sisters reunite with one another on their birthday, which is followed by tragedy and a mix-up in identity, leaving Laurel with the opportunity to push the reset button and reinvent her life as her beloved sister. What follows is a journey that explores the true understanding of one’s identity and the pitfalls of not doing so.
The film is LaMarque’s feature film debut, and she roars through the floodgates with a sincere and simply crafted film tackling everything from romance to death. The story deals with the relatable elements of identity, loss, and love, bringing them together in a simple and beautiful manner. We often ask ourselves what kind of life we want, but never wonder whether we can deal with such a life when it is given to us. What is presented is not a typical, cliche story; for example, it isn’t about a poor sister suddenly being given the chance to take her super famous twin’s place. The story steps away from over-used, material-linked elements, and focuses on relationships, the need for love, and the want to be bolder and better. The film features the characters and their interactions, rather than an overarching scenario, letting the scenario simply become the catalyst for the adventure that is about to take place. LaMarque’s well-crafted story, paired with her simple direction style, creates a film experience that is emotional, thought-provoking, and complete.
No one could ask for a better cast to portray the variety of characters involved with this film. Zoe Kazan’s performances are sophisticated and deep, creating two very different characters with distinct identities, while keeping them close enough to maintain their identical-twin relationship. Her portrayals feel effortless and fluid, enhancing the value one gets out of the film. Jake Johnson is simply a magnificent artist, taking LaMarque’s writing and creating a truly lovable, down-to-earth character. All the other cast members – Ron Livingston, John Carroll Lynch, Shae D’lyn, Frances Shaw, Sterling Beaumon, etc – create characters that don’t just become a part of the background, but are key individuals for the evolution and growth of both Laurel and the overarching storyline. As aforementioned, the film is a focus on characters, and the cast does it justice by letting those characters shine.
The compliments for the film as a whole are endless, but the finer details need an additional spotlight. The music by Julian Wass is beautiful. The compositions match the theme and tone of the film, giving particular scenes the additional support they could use. The cinematography is simple, yet it is effective enough to create a sophisticated moment. Locations and props used for any scene are not overstated, but are still unique enough to create the sense of difference, especially when dealing with the identity of both twins in any one particular setting. We tend to gloss over these tiny details, but they are what help make the film complete.
LaMarque has presented her debut film with simplicity at its core, and it’s that simplicity that really makes it a wonderful film to watch, making one reconsider things we think about everyday. Can we truly live a life we tell ourselves we want? LaMarque has proven her ability as both a writer and a director, and I cannot wait to see what her creative mind brings to the table down the road.