I recently had two viewings of Queen of Earth on successive nights and the film has stuck with me ever since. This one won’t be for everyone. It’s challenging, it’s uncompromising, and it features a riveting lead performance from the stunningly talented actress Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men, Top of the Lake) that will leave you emotionally drained by the end of the 90 minute run time. Up and coming filmmaker Alex Ross Perry (last year’s bitterly funny Listen Up Philip, which also s…tarred Moss) could do a lot worse than be wholly inspired by Robert Altman’s one of a kind masterpiece 3 Women, and even if Queen of Earth isn’t on that level (NOTHING could ever be…) I’d rather see a young talent emulating Altman as opposed to half-dozen other filmmakers I won’t mention. This is the sort of film that isn’t really “about” anything tangible, but rather, it’s an intensely internalized piece of storytelling that holds at its center the chance for an actress to go to some genuinely pained places as an artist. And it’s unquestionably one of the most unique films I’ve seen all year, a bold piece of work that feels crafted by a smart group of collaborators who knew exactly the story they wanted to tell.
There’s an unnerving quality to much of the film, due largely in part to the ominous score by Keegan DeWitt and the measured, highly stylized cinematography by Sean Price Williams. The elliptical editing by Robert Greene only intensifies the unpredictability and vulnerability being demonstrated by Moss, and the sense of uncertainty being felt by Waterston. Perry’s film centers on Catherine (Moss), a psychologically fragile woman who is still suffering the traumatic effects of her father’s recent suicide, who reconnects with an old friend (Katherine Waterston, making good on her promise from Inherent Vice) at a cabin in the woods, trying to calm her life down. But that’s not going to happen. It’s pretty clear from the get-go that this isn’t going to happen. So you just watch as Moss presents the ultimate portrait of a person coming apart at the seams, unable to gather her thoughts coherently, and the way that Perry doles out implied backstory and various narrative clues demands that viewers actively engage with the film rather than passively experiencing it. I have a lot of respect and admiration for the filmmaking, for Moss, and for the overall ambition on display, but it’s a film that will likely leave many people feeling uncomfortable, if for no other reason than it literally feels like you’re a secret guest to a mental breakdown, which is something that many individuals just won’t want to deal with when deciding what movie to watch on a Friday night.