Good Posture movie review: growing up, still deferred

Good Posture yellow light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

A rare new expedition to the realm of messed-up young women is as unsatisfying as many of the ones about feckless young men. An unlikeable protagonist should at least be interesting. This one isn’t.
I’m “biast” (pro): I’m desperate for movies by and about women
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
female director, female screenwriter, female protagonist
(learn more about this)

We don’t often see films about female ne’er-do-wells, which is something I’ve complained about loudly and frequently: Enough with the casting of well-off, feckless young men as somehow mildly endearing and ironically heroic for refusing the shackles of capitalism or forced adulthood or whateverthefuck those movies are invariably about! Where are the useless, lazy, directionless young women afforded the same privilege?

This isn’t a completely undiscovered country — see the glorious Frances Ha, perhaps the most memorable and probably the best of the very sparse recent examples — but it’s certainly a profoundly unexplored one. Alas that Good Posture, a new rare expedition to the realm of fucked-up young women, is about as satisfying — which is to say, not very — as many of the ones that center young men.

Lillian (Grace Van Patten) is, in the words of her hosts, an “entitled oaf.” After breaking up with the boyfriend (Gary Richardson: Spider-Man: Homecoming) she was living with — a result of totally reasonable complains on his part — she is now staying in the Brooklyn brownstone of friends of her father (Norbert Leo Butz: Luce, Dan in Real Life), who is off galavanting in Paris with his young new girlfriend. Lillian huffs and rolls her eyes at the notion that she might “pay rent” by watering the plants and making dinner, even though — kindly note — she is fully an adult, well into her 20s, and well past the stage at which she should understand how the world works. I don’t mean that she should accept the shackles of capitalism or the like, but simply that making dinner in exchange for otherwise free room and board in a Brooklyn brownstone is a sweet deal that — actually! — allows her to refuse the shackles of capitalism.

Good Posture Emily Mortimer Grace Van Patten
A Brooklyn brownstone has the real-estate bones to ensure you can remain estranged from your housemates…

Julia Price (Emily Mortimer: The Bookshop, The Party), whose home this is, grudgingly deems Lillian “charming,” but she really isn’t. Which isn’t automatically a problem. Protagonists don’t have to be likeable. But they do have to be interesting. There has to be something at least intriguing about them. Lillian is neither interesting nor intriguing. The defining quality of her personality is that she is a spoiled brat… and seemingly proudly so. It is intensely difficult to feel bad for her, to feel sorry for her, to feel much of anything for her, in fact, beyond annoyance. Even the extremely minor, extremely mild personal journey she embarks upon as a result of this new living arrangement feels much more like an externally imposed arm-twisting rather than any decision she has made herself. Lillian remains seemingly as clueless disengaged from everything — including her own life — by movie’s end as she was at the outset. If she has learned anything at all, we have little inkling of it.

I’m much more intrigued by Mortimer’s Price, a reclusive famous novelist whose work has had, we are told, an enormous feminist impact. But writer-director Dolly Wells — actor turned filmmaking, making her feature debut — seems to think that withholding what it is that makes Julia so genius, so beloved, is more tantalizing than revealing that to us. It’s the more difficult path, I’ll grant, particularly when there is no cinematically well-worn path to depicting mature female brilliance or achievement. There are no cultural guideposts of any kind for that brand of story at all! Someone needs to blaze that path, and it does not happen here.

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.
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