“The comedies of John Cassavetes cut deeper,” Thom Andersen explains in Los Angeles Plays Itself, “because he had an eye and an ear for ordinary madness—those flickers of lunacy that can separate us from our fellows.” Nathan Silver’s Exit Elena adopts many working methods typical of a Cassavetes production—shot almost entirely in Silver’s family home, the film stars his girlfriend (Kia Davis, who is superb), his mother (Cindy Silver), and himself—but its affinity with a film like Love Streams, its closest likeness, runs deeper than their shared independent sensibility. Silver locates the ordinary madness bubbling just beneath the surface of his own life, and flickers of lunacy abound: Exit Elena relates the story of a young live-in aide’s time caring for the elderly Florence (Gert O’Connell), but it proves to be the other residents of her suburban Boston home who require the most attention. Cindy, Florence’s daughter-in-law, counts her friendship among Elena’s responsibilities as an employee of the family, plying her with wine and whisking her along to Zumba class oblivious to her uninterest. Meanwhile Jim, Cindy’s husband, plans his days around the promise of vague “business meetings” that never materialize, lamenting the unprofessionalism of his home office. Desperation is in the air, and loneliness clings to the furniture. When their son Nathan, in a perpetual state of anxiety and agitation, returns home after an unexplained absence, the portrait is complete: Here is a family so lonely together that they long desperately for a new member, any member, to appear and shake things up.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 10, 2013