Most of the dramas I saw at Sundance this year either revolved around high concepts or were set in scenarios that would obviously result in tension. As such, the small, character-driven ‘Golden Exits’ was a breath of fresh air.
From writer/director Alex Ross Perry (‘Listen Up Philip’), ‘Golden Exits’ follows two groups of people that initially seem to have no connection with one another, but are brought together by a catalyst character who’s running away from a past life and looking to establish a new one.
Emily Browning plays Naomi, a young and attractive Australian who has fled her home country and accepted an archiving job in New York City. She visited the United States as a child, but this is her first time back. Aside from a cute boy she met here as a kid, she knows no one.
Naomi’s job places her in a small basement office where she and her boss, Nick (Adam Horovitz – yes, of Beastie Boys fame), spend their days looking through and organizing documents, photos and other belongings from deceased people. Nick would be a good man if he wasn’t obsessively aggravated by his rough-around-the-edges sister-in-law, Gwen (Mary-Louise Parker). His obvious dislike of Gwen has driven an unspoken rift between Nick and his wife, Alyssa (Chloë Sevigny). Having beautiful and delightful Naomi in his presence 40 hours a week has also distracted him. Although Naomi isn’t looking to ruin any marriages during her temporary stay stateside, that’s just what she may end up doing – only not with Nick.
Because she doesn’t know anyone in the city, Naomi reaches out to Buddy (Jason Schwartzman), the cute boy that she met as a kid. Buddy is married now, but his relationship with his young wife Jess (Analeigh Tipton) isn’t what he thought it would be. He initially meets up with Naomi with innocent intent, but soon realizes that he has more chemistry with her than with Jess, and starts playing with fire.
‘Golden Exits’ feels timeless. Shot in the cinematic style and pacing of movies from the 1970s, I’m not entirely sure that it isn’t set in the ’70s. From its concept and script to its subtext and light humor, ‘Golden Exits’ is reminiscent of a Mike Leigh or Whit Stillman film. It’s superbly crafted. Everything hinges on a web of characters who are simple yet rich. Even if no words are spoken or actions take place, the camera will sit on the characters until you understand exactly what each one is experiencing. Seeing this ensemble of characters who are surrounded by close friends and loved ones, yet have absolutely no one to rely on, is intriguing. While some may call ‘Golden Exits’ bland and pretentious, it wrapped me up in its world and left me thinking about it long after the credits came to an end.