The bourgeois Brooklyn of Alex Ross Perry’s Golden Exits is a “wasteland in the middle.” The film opens with an airplane flying away for somewhere else, followed by what is probably the least grooveful version of “New York Groove” that anyone has ever performed. A 25-year-old foreigner, Naomi (Emily Browning), is the one singing the very lugubrious version of that Ace Frehley anthem, and like the interstitial dates that appear onscreen throughout Perry’s film, she serves as a constant reminder of time gone by. The mere presence of Naomi taunts the various Gen X-ers that enter into and around her orbit, including two married couples — Nick (Adam Horovitz) and Alyssa (Chlöe Sevigny); Buddy (Jason Schwartzman) and Jess (Analeigh Tipton) — who begin to question their commitment to commitment, reconsidering past mistakes and present instabilities.
As with his four previous films, Perry focusses on faces, and favors the intensity of the close-up. But what’s different this time is the passivity of those expressions: While Listen Up Philip and especially Queen of Earth were built around big moments of emotional upheaval, Golden Exits is all painfully unresolved repression. That tone is bolstered by an almost uncanny sense of atmosphere; the characters, in particular Sevigny’s (the secret heart of the film), fortify their anxieties with cryptic, evasive musings, while composer Keegan DeWitt’s score pirouettes ominously around them. The combined effect is something like a new form of melodrama: a film that absorbs John Cassavetes’s bracing emotional intimacy, as well as contemporary Amer-indie aesthetics, and filters these through an impressionism and an elegance (this is the first time Perry’s forgone handheld) that feels at once unfamiliar and classicist.
Published as part of BAMcinemaFest 2017 | Dispatch 2.