For her evocative third feature, writer-director Ry Russo-Young has collaborated with filmmaker-actress Lena Dunham (Tiny Furniture, HBO’s Girls) on a screenplay that occasionally presses too hard on plot in order to achieve thematic balance, as with the unlikely sexual tension that builds between psychiatrist Julie (Rosemarie DeWitt) and a manipulative patient (Justin Kirk). The story: An experimental filmmaker with an unfinished magnum opus about bugs and scorpions, 24-year-old Martine (Olivia Thirlby) has come to L.A. seeking the expertise of Peter (John Krasinski), a young sound effects wizard. Moving into the lush hillside house Peter shares with his wife—Julie—and their two children, Martine almost immediately stirs up trouble. She doesn’t appear to understand her innate sexual power, so Martine is slow to pick up on Peter’s halting, awkward seduction technique (beautifully played by Krasinski), or that sleeping with her mentor’s assistant a day or two later might not go over so well. Ultimately, the director and her cinematographer, Christopher Blauvelt (Meek’s Cutoff), prove to be more interested in capturing the perfection of L.A.’s perpetual sunshine and the ways in which the people beneath it seem subtly oppressed, as if the light is expecting more of them than they can possibly deliver. (Which might explain why no one walks in L.A.)
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