In The Pretty One, Zoe Kazan Holds It Together


When a screen actor takes on the dual part of twins — a stunt that has played in diverse registers from parent-trap comedy to dead-ringers perversity, and frequently with some mistaken-identity plot point — we tend to scan for the performance variations and visual seams between the look-alikes.

Such viewing is at first encouraged by Jenée LaMarque’s darkly charming, unfussily polished debut, as a birthday reunion brings home extroverted city-dweller Audrey (Zoe Kazan) to her awkward wallflower sister, Laurel (also Kazan), who laughs alike and walks alike, but otherwise shares very little of her model sibling’s presumed fabulousness.

But just before the lightweight limitations of the high-concept twinning become wearying, Audrey — seated next to her sister, newly liberated from her dead-end suburban life — dies in a car crash, and the mildly amnesiac Laurel comes to and hears what everybody thinks of her when she’s confused for, yes, the pretty one.

Marvelous in a tricky role that requires both quirky naïveté and an instant shedding of such as she discovers herself by shoehorning into Audrey’s former life (including romantic entanglements with married lover Ron Livingston and sardonic neighbor and tenant Jake Johnson), Kazan holds together a decent coming-of-age script that’s emotionally sincere if tonally unfocused.