Queen of Earth – Brilliant performances and a masterful score lift this “Persona”-esque psycho-thriller
Written and directed by: Alex Ross Perry
Last year, I wrote a review on Alex Ross Perry’s painful but hilarious “Listen Up Philip”. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, but it was the performance turned in by Elisabeth Moss that really stood out. With so much range and depth, I wondered how she wasn’t a more celebrated actress. Well, Perry clearly sees it too because, in “Queen of Earth”, he gives her the spotlight and a role that enables her to really show off how incredible a talent she is.
Catherine (Moss) has suffered a double dose of emotional trauma. Her father committed suicide then, shortly after, her boyfriend leaves her for another woman. To try to temporarily escape her pain, she retreats to the family cabin of her long time best friend Virginia (Waterston). Once there, Perry bounces his story back and forth between the present and the duo’s vacation (along with Catherine’s then boyfriend played by Kentucker Audley) to the same cabin a year earlier. Right away we see that the women’s relationship is tension-filled and enormously competitive, displaying the fine line between love and hate.
The second half of the film is filled with quiet psychological warfare and inner turmoil, that call to memory The films of Ingmar Bergman and Roman Polanski. The two friend’s conversations create a palpable tension that, along with an unnervingly eerie score by Keegan DeWitt, and the unraveling of Catherine’s nerves provide a constant sense of coming tragedy. Perry, for all of his intelligent nods to past auteurs and his abundance of writing ability, delivers a screenplay that can be a bit frustrating at times (by that I mean the guy likes to play with words in an almost “wink, wink” sort of way that will befuddle some), but the script is elevated by brilliant performances by the Moss, Waterston, and Patrick Fugit as Virginia’s menacing, class-warrior boyfriend. I was also thrilled to see Kate Lyn Sheil (who is one of my personal favorite indie circuit actresses) in a minor role.
This movie, much like “Listen Up Philip”, will not be to everyone’s taste. It is a slow burn psycho-thriller that will appeal to most cinephiles. For me it solidified Moss, Waterston, and Perry as three of the rising stars of indie film.