Writer-director Alex Ross Perry made a breakthrough last year with his Noah Baumbach-esque black comedy Listen Up Philip but this psycho-drama follow up couldn't be more different if it tried.
truggling with the recent suicide of her famous artist father and the break up with long-term boyfriend James (Audley), Catherine's (Moss, who hasn't been better) mental state takes a hammering. Invited to stay with best friend Virginia (Waterston) in her family's upstate holiday home, Catherine initially welcomes the break. But as the week progresses, Virginia's acerbic attitude and her new boyfriend's (Fugit) insistence on hanging around drives Catherine deeper into depression…
erry attempts to really get under the skin of depression and tell the story from the inside out, exploring a troubled mind from that very point of view. The writer-director at first shoots long scenes in single takes, allowing both Virginia and Catherine time to indulge in lengthy confessionals, but then his style gets increasingly choppy as time goes on, mimicking a mind that won’t sit still. He plays around with whose story this is too, first looking like a two-hander with flashbacks to the previous summer (an ill-fated holiday where Virginia was going through a hard time but Catherine kyboshed any bonding by inviting James along), making one guess that Virginia is taking revenge on Catherine by keeping the cruel Fugit around. There's also a hint that Virginia herself is mentally unhinged – coldly staring at Catherine as she walks past, knocking on her door late at night to give her salad.
ut slowly and subtly it emerges that all this is seen through Catherine's eyes and all the dirty looks and snippy comments that Virginia throws her way may be filtered through Catherine's troubled mind ('may' as Virginia definitely has some unaddressed issues with Catherine). It's all very hard to pin down and the film is all the better for it.
hile Perry can be forgiven for pushing Catherine's delusions just a tad too far (there's nowhere to go but down) but what isn't forgivable is the slipping in of needless moments of humour. Having Virginia read Ike Zimmerman's (Jonathan Pryce’s arrogant writer from Listen Up Philip) Madness & Women and The Cinch may be funny but they are jokes that will fly over the heads of those who haven't seen that film and confuse those who have. They are complete mood busters when Perry, backed by an ominous soundtrack, has worked so hard to instil such a foreboding atmosphere.
hat aside Queen of Earth is an immersive experience into a disintegrating mind.