DVD Review: Queen of Earth

QueenEarthSTUDIO: IFC | DIRECTOR: Alex Ross Perry | CAST: Elisabeth Moss, Katherine Waterston, Patrick Fugit, Kentucker Audley
RELEASE DATE: 12/22/15 | PRICE: DVD $24.98
BONUSES: commentary, behind-the-scenes footage
SPECS: NR | 90 min. | Psychological drama | 1.78:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall

The spirit of the international cinema’s great horror-tinged psychological dramas from the Sixties and Seventies—Polanski’s Repulsion, Bergman’s Persona, De Palma’s Sisters and, hell, even Woody Allen’s Interiors—are revived in Alex Ross Perry’s (Listen Up Philip) effectively discomforting Queen of Earth, starring Elisabeth Moss (TV’s Mad Men).

Elisabeth Moss comes undone in Queen of Earth

Elisabeth Moss comes undone in Queen of Earth

Moss is Catherine, a troubled New Yorker trying to cope with the recent death of her artist father , a tragedy that was immediately followed up by her being dumped by boyfriend James (Kentucker Audley). Taking a breather from NYC life and looking to recuperate, she heads out to her best friend Virginia’s (Katherine Waterston, Inherent Vice) Hudson Valley lake house planning take in the fresh air and relax with her pal. But none of that seems to be on the agenda, as Catherine is quickly overcome with memories of spending time at the house a year earlier with her ex. She’s also starting to see things that don’t exist and talk to people who aren’t there. And if that’s not bad enough, BFF Virginia ain’t really showing all that much sympathy as she has some fun on her own with boy-next-door Rich (Patrick Fugit, Gone Girl). And so begins—and accelerates—Catherine’s spiral into what appears to be, er, madness…

Madness is a painfully easy, almost throw-away term when affixing it to a character in a movie, but Elisabeth Moss truly owns it in Queen of Earth (which sarcastically refers to her thinking she’s got complete control of her nature and well-being, I think). Vacillating between extremely kinetic happy highs and despondent barely-moving lows, accented with bouts of twitchy dementia—all delivered with measured doses of “actorishness”—Moss makes outstanding use of writer/director Perry’s frequent close-ups. The filmmaker also crafts his scenes in and around the lake house with an improvisational air and a grainy visual scheme (effectively captured in 16mm by cinematographer Sean Price Williams). Keegan DeWitt’s minimalist synth score adds to the woozy, unbalanced tone, particularly in scenes where Catherine locks herself in her room with only a decaying salad and her own growing instability, a la Repulsion.

A solid arthouse entry with a consciously crafted approach and solid performances (it’s Moss’s film, but Waterston and Fugit are also excellent), Queen of Earth isn’t for all tastes, but definitely delivers the unease and restlessness for a specialty audience that’s seeking such.

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.