by Adam Riske
Queen of Earth is one of those movies you watch and know immediately that it has been made by a born-filmmaker. Alex Ross Perry (The Color Wheel, Listen Up Philip) has put together one hell of a movie. The direction of the acting, the shot selection, the cinematography (and choice of film stock), the music etc. – it all works. And yet, something’s missing with Queen of Earth and I can’t find myself embracing it. Maybe I’m not supposed to. It’s one of those frustrating movies for me where I’m left “WTF” and frantically trying to process my feelings about it as I write. This leaves me with a question: Can I recommend a movie on technical merits alone even though it left me cold and I never want to see it again? I respect the hell out of Queen of Earth but my good feelings about it end there. It didn’t add up for me into a rewarding or pleasant viewing experience.
Having not been a viewer of Mad Men, my relationship with Elisabeth Moss as an actress is limited although I was impressed by her work in last year’s underrated relationship drama The One I Love. That performance is nothing compared to her work in Queen of Earth. Moss is asked to run a marathon of emotions and every moment rings true. It’s the type of performance that should be studied in acting classes. Katherine Waterston was one of the best parts of last year’s Inherent Vice (a movie I did not warm to on the whole) and her work here continues to show her range and chops. She reminds me a lot (not only in appearance) to Jennifer Jason Leigh. She plays characters that are intelligent, conniving and a bit mysterious. Her performance playing off of Moss is pure acting gamesmanship. These are two women who are friends but really have no business being friends. Their relationship is toxic and both actresses take their opportunities to portray very meaty characters and end up creating something memorable. Also very good (in a supporting role) is Patrick Fugit, who is best known as the young journalist from Almost Famous. He’s a completely different person here than in that movie and he is truly excellent. On a scene to scene basis, Queen of Earth really works because you’re seeing powerful, skilled performances speaking the words of a quality writer (also Alex Ross Perry).
The movie is now available on VOD and in limited release in theaters.
*Check out the trailer. It’s pretty terrifically put together. I love the voiceover and stylistic choices employed, many of which carry over into the movie.