Michael’s review published on Letterboxd:
"We should trade places, see how we feel then."
Movies like Queen of Earth are why I watch movies.
Whenever I see a movie that takes me by surprise, as Queen of Earth did, I tend to (as I'm sure you've all noticed) deal very heavily in hyperbole. Opening LB after finishing this film, I wanted to write a very objective, contained review of Queen of Earth. But, fuck that. Queen of Earth was astounding and I refuse to dull my excitement to make a more ~balanced~ review. And whether or not it holds up to this 5 star rating in the future doesn't matter, because at the moment I fucking love it.
Okay, this movie could have been a misfire. This movie could have sucked so easily. Two women vacationing and quietly undermining each other as the stage for a slow-burning almost wanna-be Polanski psychological breakdown sounds very film-student-y. But director Perry has such control over the camera, the pacing, the environment, the actors. It never feels clumsy (as a film student's take on this set-up probably would), it never feels accidental. I'd even say, despite not much really happening, that Queen of Earth is thrilling.
If you'd allow me, I'm gonna engage in some hyperbole. I may not agree with myself next year, next week, or even tomorrow, but this is how I feel right now immediately after finishing this movie. One: Queen of Earth is the best movie of 2015 thus far. Two: Queen of Earth will most likely remain my favorite movie of 2015. Three: Both of the lead actresses deserve Oscars for these performances, and neither will get them.
Seriously, though, how great were those two performances? I adored Waterston in Inherent Vice, and was so excited to see her take on a larger role here, and then ecstatic to see her excel at it. But as much as I love Waterston (and I looooove Waterston), Elisabeth Moss absolutely steals the show. She's an actress I've never felt compelled to pay much attention to, but she's astounding here. Captivating and entrancing, dark and disturbing but also hilarious, she pulled me in with her performance from the opening shot. And seriously, how great was her "You are what's wrong with the world" speech? Seriously amazing stuff.
I only know one thing about director Alex Ross Perry, so I'm gonna go ahead and try to make it fit into this movie so it makes it seems like I know what I'm talking about when really I do not. The only thing I know about Perry is that he is a director who was heavily inspired by the (unfairly) notorious novel Gravity's Rainbow (a very strong contender for my favorite book, by the way), leading him to make a loose adaptation that I have yet to see (because adapting GR sounds...impossible) as his first film, Impolex. And me being a big fan of Gravity's Rainbow and this being my first Perry film, I was curious to see if/how that work influenced this. And about halfway through, when my mind wandered back to Pynchon (as it invariably does), it struck me that Gravity's Rainbow is not the Pynchon novel to which Queen of Earth belongs: it's The Crying of Lot 49. And I'm not saying that just because Lot 49 is the only (good) Pynchon novel with a female lead (what's Bleeding Edge?). (Get ready for some very surface-level analysis.) Both of the main characters in this movie are defined by men: it's something that is literally outright stated in one of the scenes. And like Lot 49, Queen of Earth is about a woman (or women) trying to escape the patriarchal institutions which bind her (or them), and kinda-sorta maybe loses her (their) sanity in the process (or, in the case of Queen of Earth, kinda-sorta is more like kinda-definitely). Only instead of one Oedipa Maas, there are two women playing out some sort of power play over a summer house vacation, and (as much as I adore Lot 49), it honestly makes it more interesting.
And now that I've made my obligatory not-quite-fitting comparison to some other work because I can never talk about a film on its own merits, I don't really have much left to say about Queen of Earth except Wow Wow Wow! I can easily see Queen of Earth not working for someone, but if you're like me and you're a nut for atmosphere over just about everything else, and you like your humor on the dark side, then definitely check out Queen of Earth. It is a hypnotic, hilarious, disturbing trip down the psychological rabbit hole, and while its ground is well-tread, it never ceases feeling fresh.