So unpretentious that it could be accused of lacking style or vigor, writer-director Marya Cohn’s maturely conceived, Kickstarter-budgeted debut swaps genders on the more traditionally male-driven story of a stunted coming-of-age.
Think Trainwreck with muted emotional discomfort instead of jokes. Hardly ready for thirty, promiscuous yet perpetually dissatisfied Manhattanite Alice (Emily VanCamp) is less a junior editor than an exploited gofer for her self-serving publishing-house boss.
Unable to overcome some long-term writer’s block, Alice suffers quiet humiliations courtesy of her dismissive literary-agent dad (Michael Cristofer), of which now comes the worst of all: She’s been saddled with handling the publicity campaign for the re-release of a book her father’s protégé Milan (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo‘s Michael Nyqvist) wrote around the time he predatorily served as her “mentor” while she was still an insecure teen. Alice is as the film’s title suggests, and Cohn’s strongest skill is in scripting the beats for flashbacks to her half her lifetime ago, a series of traumatic reveals that speaks to why she’s such a hot mess today.
These psychological causes and effects are occasionally a bit too tidy, as is the Bechdel test–failing third act, in which Alice finds an excuse to shape up in hunky political activist Emmett (Tiny Furniture‘s David Call), but Cohn is clearly on the right track toward making the kind of nuanced grown-up dramas that sadly are no longer in vogue.
The Girl in the Book
Written and directed by Marya Cohn
Opens December 11, Village East Cinema