Combustible Celluloid
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With: Zoe Kazan, Jake Johnson, Ron Livingston, Danny Pudi, Frances Shaw, Sterling Beaumon, Jeremy Howard, Sabrina Lloyd, John Carroll Lynch, Shae D'lyn
Written by: Jenée LaMarque
Directed by: Jenée LaMarque
MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexual content
Running Time: 90
Date: 02/21/2014

The Pretty One (2014)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Next of Twin

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It seems as if indie movies sometimes pick up on Hollywood trends, rather than the other way around. In the case of The Pretty One, first-time writer and director Jenée LaMarque has made a romantic comedy based on a ridiculous high-concept idea and the old, tired "lie plot." However, the charisma of stars Zoe Kazan and Jake Johnson tend to make up for a lot.

Kazan plays twins Audrey and Laurel. Audrey is the title "pretty one," who has moved out and become a successful real estate agent, selling "storybook homes." Laurel worships Audrey, thinking that she has it all figured out. As for Laurel, she stays at home, taking care of their father (John Carroll Lynch) and painting oddball interpretations of classic works of art.

Audrey visits home, and the sisters go for a makeover, making Laurel look exactly like Audrey. Then they get into a car accident; Audrey dies, but the surviving Laurel is mistaken for her more glamorous sister, and she decides to go with the mistake. She inserts herself into her sister's life, realizing that her sister has been having an affair with a married man (Ron Livingston), while shunning her handsome but offbeat neighbor, Basel (Jake Johnson).

Of course, Laurel/Audrey and Basel hit it off, until he finds out about the lie. As with all other romantic comedies with this plot, there's a stretch of several scenes in the third act in which the main character must apologize more than once, and redeem him or herself. Although this time, it's a woman writing a male character, and Basel's reaction seems way too outrageous for a guy that's supposed to be so laid-back.

The movie never really explores the magnitude of this lie; it's played as cute during the first half, and then shocking during the second half, with little grounding or balance. Moreover, many of the movie's activities and events seem designed for maximum cuteness, even though the movie is filmed with flat realism.

But like I said, Johnson and Kazan are such fresh forces in a movie like this that it's tempting to give the movie a pass. And certainly anyone looking for a low-key date movie could do worse.

It appears that Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has only released The Pretty One on DVD; no Blu-ray. This release comes with several trailers, a very brief little featurette on the visual effects that I found more confusing than enlightening, and optional subtitles.

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