SXSW FILM FESTIVAL 2022 REVIEW! We’ve all dreamt of what it would be like to have a successful life at one point or another. Of course, success means something different to everyone. For some, it’s a breadth of income or being able to travel the world with no limits. For others, it could be as simple as internal happiness. In Pretty Problems, couple Jack (Michael Tennant) and Lindsay (Britt Rentschler) want it all. Unfortunately, at this point in their lives, their marriage is on the rocks, opulence is a foreign concept, and maintaining a fulfilling career is a dream far out of reach.
Lindsey is too lazy and insecure to decide to better her life while Jack’s inability to manage his anger has limited his career prospects. Together, their instabilities have led to an uneventful marriage and life. But when Lindsay and Jack get invited to a Sonoma Chateau by a wealthy stranger named Cat Flax (J.J. Nolan), the appeal of life on the other side quickly fades when it reveals unpleasant truths. For Jack and Lindsay, privilege proves to be an ugly avenue for even more self-destruction.
In Pretty Problems, director Kestrin Pantera and writer Michael Tennant master the themes of self-worth and complacency with delightfully dark humor and exposition. Through Jack and Lindsay, Pantera explores the theory of “greener grass” unlike anything I’ve seen before. When it comes to self-worth, accepting oneself means different things for different people. Unfortunately for Lindsay, she puts more value in what others think of her, particularly those with greater socioeconomic status. When she first meets the elegant and carefree Cat, Lindsay is working her mundane job selling women’s clothes and accessories. Through one conversation and reluctant acceptance of Cat’s compliments, Lindsay reveals the power of poor self-esteem. She dismisses obvious red flags and accepts an extravagant weekend getaway with strangers.
“…Lindsay and Jack get invited to a Sonoma Chateau by a wealthy stranger named Cat…”
Jack, on the other hand, represents complacency. While he doesn’t like being financially unsound, he doesn’t look to others for approval. Perhaps his ego stands in the way, but Jack refuses to seek his self-worth from others. These clashing personalities reveal the true problems of Lindsay and Jack’s disgruntled marriage, making an entertaining yet sad discovery of their harsh reality.
Tennant’s script brilliantly unravels these concepts. Pretty Problems nails extravagance and rich culture from a spectator’s vantage point with riotous and glorious mayhem by intertwining it with extremism for comedic relief. As Lindsay and Jack revel in their new (and temporary) livelihood, the grass doesn’t appear to be so green on the other side after all. And in their revelation, their appreciation for one another is strengthened. They just so happen to hit numerous obstacles along the way. Their journey is nothing short of hilarious.
To appreciate the life you have, spending a weekend in someone else’s shoes might be worth it. For Jack and Lindsay, that might’ve meant coming to the brink of completely losing themselves in the process. But sometimes being pulled to the edge is the awakening and inspiration needed to reevaluate what’s most important in life.
Thanks to the cast and crew, this flamboyant tale of lavishness works on almost every level. At the heart of Pretty Problems lies a story about appreciating what you have and not relying on the compliments of strangers to influence your self-worth. While a heavy topic, the light-hearted script and chaotically fun scenes balance the more serious themes. These contrasting efforts result in non-stop colorful thrills that prove that problems don’t lessen when money is on the table. Overconfidence can mask hidden insecurities and self-medicating can be a way to feel anything but hollowness. Problems when you’re rich or pretty are still problems after all.
Pretty Problems screened at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival.
"…chaotically fun scenes balance the more serious themes."