Only people who have been friends forever have the ability to be more cruel, rude and downright evil to one another than anyone else can be. Well, except family members. The old term “familiarity breeds contempt” has never been more apropos than in Mary Bronstein’s directorial debut, “Yeast.” “Yeast” is about three friends Rachel (Bronstein), Alice (Judd) and Gen (Gerwig) who ostensibly hate each other’s guts. Not only that but they each find a way to push each other’s buttons and wreak psychological (and sometimes physical) havoc on one another until each confrontation we witness slowly explodes into a full-blown fight. I’m talking the kind of awkward fight you might see regular people having in the middle of a park or shopping mall. While you may not know what the fights are about, they sure as hell seem serious and appear quite intense. Such is the case with the blowups in “Yeast.”
Shot mainly in extremely tight close-ups “Yeast” just piles on the uncomfortable moments. We’ve all seen Cinéma-vérité work how it’s supposed to and it definitely puts you in the moment and brings you close to the action here. Not only do you often find yourself feeling in the room with these characters, you eventually develop the same sense of loathing they all have for one another. The difference is, you just want out of this cinematically forced relationship while the characters onscreen cling together for some unknown reason. But rather than just wallow in a sort of miserable state of affairs, “Yeast” also functions as a sort of digital video Rorschach test.
One moment you might identify with the Rachel character and her difficulty with odd roommate Alice while the next you find yourself wanting to choke Rachel while relating with Gen. “Yeast” works so well because the characters are balanced enough so that you’re never really sure who’s right and who’s wrong and that’s probably because they’re all equally right and wrong. Even though the film is ostensibly about Bronstein’s character it’s impressive that such a sense of familiarity is brought fourth from all three characters and that’s a tribute to excellent acting and directing. “Yeast” is an intense little film but anyone who has had a falling out with a longtime friend…or would like to…will get exactly what’s going on.