Film Review: Golden Exits

Tedious saga about the personal and romantic dilemmas of dull Brooklynites.
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Alex Ross Perry is interested in individuals who are often deemed unlikeable, but with Golden Exits, the problem isn’t repugnance so much as dullness. There isn’t a figure to be found in the writer-director’s follow-up to 2015’s Queen of Earth that isn’t a one-note bore, defined by disaffection and disappointments that are either too overtly delineated or not delineated enough. Perry’s latest vacillates uneasily between obviousness and obliqueness, all the while struggling to come up with a reason to care for a collection of Brooklynites whose misery is as familiar as it is monotonous.

At the center of this torpid affair is Nick (Beastie Boys member Adam Horowitz), an archivist putting together the “materials” of his deceased father-in-law. Due to some cursorily referenced past infidelity, his therapist wife Alyssa (Chloe Sevigny) is wracked with insecurity and anxiety when he hires a new assistant, Naomi (Emily Browning), an Australian whose cheery interest in Nick and his work seems—in light of his hermit-loner nerdiness—more than a bit preposterous. Nick’s habit of staring longingly at Naomi certainly indicates that Alyssa has good reason to be nervous. Yet it’s hard to find sympathy for her when she’s portrayed by Sevigny as a perpetually unhappy moper whose face never wavers from the same sad expression, and who likes to periodically get together with her more severe sister Gwen (Mary-Louise Parker) to express her misgivings.

Introduced singing Ace Frehley’s “New York Groove” on the steps of her brownstone, Naomi spends her free time hanging out with Buddy (Jason Schwartzman), a recording engineer whom—through family connections—she first met years ago, and who likes to abandon his wife Jess (Analeigh Tipton) in favor of Naomi. Browning’s twenty-something is thus posited as the interloper poised to possibly destroy two marriages, although at least until an out-the-blue final statement of purpose, Naomi proves more of an indecisive cipher than a cunning home-wrecker. Perry, meanwhile, has no interest in staging anything approaching actual fireworks. Instead, he favors long sequences in which men and women talk about their doubts, regrets and desires in ways that make them feel like the most blandly entitled people on Earth, wrapped up in their own mundane faux-crises to the point of being wholly sheltered from the world at large.

Such solipsism is intentional on Perry’s part, but that doesn’t help erase the nagging sense that these aren’t people worthy of one’s genuine consideration—less because they’re off-putting than because they and their circumstances are nondescript and slight. Golden Exits conveys its subjects’ estrangement from one another through compositions that place people on different foreground-background planes. That's far more evocative than Perry’s constant use of close-ups, which vainly strive to create intimacy through pimple-inspecting proximity. No amount of up-close-and-personal moments, however, can change the fact that Golden Exits makes one pine to escape the company of its second-rate Woody Allen characters.

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