Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Everyone Else (2009, Maren Ade)

A subtler take on a prickly, Cassavetes-style relationship drama, Everyone Else examines the friction-filled love affair between Gitti (Birgit Minichmayr) and Chris (Lars Eidinger). As the film begins, the two are left on their own in sun-drenched Sardinia, where Chris, an architect, has been hired to do some improvements on a rich man’s vacation home. But while Chris makes a few stabs at work, most of his time is spent with Gitti as they try to enjoy some time on their own.

Soon, however, their personalities get in the way of their enjoyment. To begin with, Chris discovers via phone that he’s lost a prestigious competition, then hides the bad news from Gitti for several days, allowing his unexplained disappointment to cast a pall over their holiday. Then an encounter with one of Chris’ colleagues and his wife leads to a pair of awkward dinner parties in which Chris and Gitti’s issues come to the fore.

Ade, to her credit, never puts too fine a point on the frictions that exist within the relationship. Based on their actions in Everyone Else, it’s clear that Chris takes his artistic principles very seriously, but is somewhat spineless and eternally conscious of his self-image. On the other hand, Gitti is more impulse-driven, which gives her a kind of honesty that’s bracing in some circumstances but a hindrance in social situations, in which her inability to shrug off something she finds disagreeable leads to difficulties that might otherwise have been averted.

I won’t delve too deeply into the plot of Everyone Else, which is best experienced with as little advance knowledge as possible. However, it’s fascinating to see how Ade, ably assisted by Eidinger and Minichmayr, portray in detail the relationship between Chris and Gitti. We’ve all known couples like Chris and Gitti, in which their outward affections barely mask the hostility they feel deep down. There’s some truth to the old saying that opposites attract, but at the end of the day those opposites need to be compatible, personality-wise.

In most movies about relationships, love is depicted as the end result, and they all live happily every after. But even the happiest of couples- hi, honey!- knows that it’s nowhere near that simple, and for all couples who think in the long term, the make-or-break issue becomes not whether love is shared but rather whether the partners can make the relationship work. Everyone Else is about a borderline case- two people who may like (or even love) each other, but aren’t sure whether that’s enough, or should be. On that basis alone, it’s more realistic than most movies of its kind, and better to boot.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

No comments: