If Doctor Manhattan, Alan Moore’s tragic god-like superhero from his graphic novel tome Watchmen, had a favorite modern movie, it just might be Golden Exits. Director Alex Ross Perry’s latest feels like it has the philosophy of Manhattan’s self-imposed exile to Mars and the subsequent monologue of emotional exhaustion delivered. Tired of “these people” and being in the tangle of their lives, finding solitude and reflection only on a dead world? I can’t say for certain if we, the audience, are supposed to identify with this specific view – most likely held by our foreign lead character – but, at the very least, we are subjected to it like a hammer to a nail. And it is as tragic as it is funny.
Emily Browning plays Naomi, an Australian college student that’s been temporarily sent to Brooklyn to assist with archival work, under the direction of Nick (Adam Horovitz/Ad-Rock). In a constant state of biting her lip – perhaps an infectious nod to her repetitive infatuations – Naomi finds herself quickly the center of attention, as friends of friends, wives and sisters all open up their insecurities around her, specifically when it comes to the possibility of infidelity or the very comparison of her youthfulness and attitude to theirs. Golden Exits is seemingly a film about people talking a lot but doing nothing about anything (a point brought up by Naomi regarding cinema she’d like to see), but really is teeming and seething with much melancholy, passiveness and lustful longing (not necessarily for sex), that it could be classified as heavy with action. The action that progresses, of course, is all in those scenes where things are best/unfortunately left unsaid.
“…teeming and seething with much melancholy, passiveness and lustful longing…”
At any moment, you get the feeling that a comet could crash into the planet and wipe everything into a new ice age, leaving nothing but atoms of our lives and encounters. And it would’ve been very Monty Python-ish, had that happened. Alex Ross Perry has made a comedy of impotence that is, interestingly enough, at times impudent. When scenes transition and fade into/out of soft blackness, it’s this rare combination of sad and comical punctuation. Comical not out of straight awkwardness mind you, but lifted from its tears. Characters walk and talk, heavy with the weight of regret and unfulfillment, but perform this for each other in such a calculated manner. It’s as if everyone is lying to everyone about something, and it’s out of these pathetic behaviors we find the funny of their existence. The importance of their being which is, ironically, discovered after being told how unimportant and pointless everything really is.
Bright and bold colored lights will at times splash over faces, as if the sun or moon were suddenly filtered. At one point, two sisters are in a kitchen talking, one bathed blue and the other orange. In another, a man is covered in pinkish red. It wasn’t clear at first what the goal of these colors meant, the first thought being mood – blue = sad and so forth. Considering it some, I’m of the inclination that these were flavors of sorts, added at specific moments of dread and dreariness – never empty but perhaps with a void present – to provide some stylistic levity. They were most welcome.
When Naomi finally leaves for her home, Nick visits his wife played by the chronically depressive and painfully paranoid Chloe Sevigny, in an effort to console. Her line, the last one of the film, “Is that all there is?” could be put on a plaque shot into outer space, sent with care from humanity. Care, but not “love”. Golden Exits is a post love, post-passion and pro anti-depressant film. It is expressing its own curiosity at what it feels to be the inevitable conclusion of youth and living like there’s no tomorrow, and the actual reality of time and knowing there aren’t many tomorrows left. Somehow, this is a funny notion to me. Funny, not laughable. Life is slapstick, as is existence. That comet can’t come soon enough. You know who’d dig that? Doctor Manhattan.
Golden Exits (2018) Written & directed by Alex Ross Perry. Starring Emily Browning, Mary-Louise Parker, and Adam Horovitz.
RATING: 5 / 5