- Katherine McLaughlin
- 30 September 2019
Grace Van Patten is a dream in the directorial debut of British actress Dolly Wells
For her directorial debut, British actress Dolly Wells (recently seen in Can You Ever Forgive Me?) has chosen a character portrait of an entitled twentysomething slacker with parental issues. Set in the Brooklyn area where Wells now lives, adding to the personal touch is that Wells's best friend, and co-star in their self-penned sitcom Doll & Em, Emily Mortimer, plays reclusive writer Julia Price. Julia's notable fans include Zadie Smith, Jonathan Ames and Martin Amis, who gamely appear as themselves.
Grace Van Patten (The Meyerowitz Stories) is the protagonist Lilian, who barges into the brownstone home of family friend Julia, after being dumped by her exasperated boyfriend Nate (Gary Richardson). She holes up in a small room there smoking weed, until she is motivated into making a documentary after a run-in with Nate and his new girlfriend, successful filmmaker Laura (Condola Rashad). Lilian's largely absent music producer father calls in some favours, while she employs incompetent cameraman Sol (John Early – as hilarious as ever).
Wells has crafted a promising first feature that plays out like a gender-flipped version of Noah Baumbach's 1995 debut Kicking and Screaming, mashed with his more recent collaboration with Greta Gerwig, Mistress America. As Lilian gets to grips with her post-college life and abandonment issues, her cluelessness and arrogance get her into trouble. At the same time, she strikes up a communication with her landlady, via written journal entries, and an affectionate relationship blossoms.
At points, this is a highly amusing and painfully aware depiction of a young woman who has been riding off her good looks and dad's name for most of her life. Van Patten is a dream as she delivers spiteful and self-centred lines with aplomb. It's her performance that elevates the material as it detours into side stories that add to the autumnal New York flavour, but rob the film of emotional impact by distracting from the imaginatively drawn mother-daughter dynamic between Lilian and Julia.
Selected release from Fri 4 Oct.