Thursday, August 18, 2011

Another Earth

Deliberately—perhaps even desperately—stylish, Mike Cahill’s Another Earth tries in vain to hide a ridiculous plot and poorly conceived characters behind a lot of shaky-cam tomfoolery. Its most successful image is its simplest: a mysterious alternative version of the Earth that has appeared in the sky, lurking in the background like a watchful hero waiting patiently to swoop in and rescue the filmmakers from this mess of their own creation. And what a novel mess it is! Half Dardenne brothers’ moral drama, half Crisis on Infinite Earths, all wrapped up with a surprise! twist! ending! (tell your friends)—how many genres can a film fail in all at once? Brit Marling, who co-scripted with Cahill, stars as Rhoda, a young woman who killed two-thirds of a family in a car accident and now seeks redemption by posing as a maid for the survivor. In between doing the dishes and vacuuming, she daydreams of escaping to that alternate Earth, which remains little more than an underdeveloped distraction, one person’s vague sci-fi concept being another’s lazy plot device, I suppose. (A rocket to another planet means never having to say you’re sorry.) Key supporting characters include the mopey alcoholic crash survivor who seduces Rhoda with Wii boxing and musical saw, and a wisdom-dispensing janitor who pours bleach in his ears and eyes. Sound advice, under the circumstances.

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