Zoe Kazan and Jake Johnson are a gratifying pair in the “The Pretty One” a drama about loss and finding yourself, but the narrative doesn’t feel thought out enough to strike any chords.
Twin sisters Laurel and Audrey are polar opposites. Adorably awkward and shrinking violet Laurel (Zoe Kazan) lives at home, taking care of her Father, while her outgoing and vivacious sister, Audrey (Zoe Kazan) lives in the city, preferring a more fast paced lifestyle. After the tragic death of her sister and a mix-up at the hospital, Laurel assumes her sister’s identity, heading out to the city where she meets her sister’s tenant, Basel (Jake Johnson). As the two grow closer, Laurel finds herself faced with the difficult choice of continuing to deceive Basel and her family, or to come clean and face the consequences.
The premise of “The Pretty One,” is tricky, and unconceivable, but that’s not what hurt. I’m generally okay with incredulous storylines; plenty of filmmakers sell insane ideas and it’s because they focus on a tone. Writer/director Jenee LaMarque treats the premise like a plot device making it feel superficial, instead of exploring any genuine nuances of grief, denial or Laurel’s quest to find herself. The second part of the film switches gears and zones in on the relationship between Basel and Laurel. The two have a great energy between them and ultimately end up being the most engaging scenes to watch, to the point where I wished they’d turned the movie into a romantic comedy instead. At the end, I left with too many questions and frustrations. Did Laurel ever find herself, if she did, I didn’t notice, she’s a little less shy around the guy she’s sleeping with but that’s not very convincing. Did she find herself through having a relationship with a man? That seems false and treads into dangerous territory but it was the only thing outwardly shown to the audience. The grief for her sister is non-existent, Laurel is too busy lying, setting up her new life, and being concerned if anyone can tell she’s not her sister Audrey. Grief is barely addressed, to the point where other characters start to ask, ‘is she dealing with her sisters loss?’ Maybe that was the point and it would’ve been an interesting one, to touch on avoidance, or to show a tiny crack in Laurel or a small note to her instability besides being overwhelmed at having to act like her sister, but it didn’t. This all made the major conflict in the main character’s life feel forced and without purpose. I couldn’t help but think this story would’ve been better served as a dark, seedy comedy rather than a drama with some comedic edges.