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Movie Review: ‘The Pretty One’

"The Pretty One"

Directed by Jenée LaMarque Dada Films

By Regina Napolitano

Feb. 21, 2014 12:00 a.m.

A case of mistaken identity, a girl on a path of self-discovery and a quirky love interest are all elements that suggest that “The Pretty One” has potential. However, the end result is too confused about being a comedy, a drama or an “Amelie” wannabe to successfully be any of them.

The movie follows Laurel (Zoe Kazan), the less successful, less popular and less fashionable member of a set of identical twins. Laurel has always aspired to be like her sister Audrey, also played by Kazan, and actually gets the chance when her sister suddenly dies in a car crash.

Laurel, first unwittingly and later purposefully, assumes Audrey’s identity. She leaves the small town where she took care of her father, moves into Audrey’s duplex in the city, meets Audrey’s charmingly odd tenant Basel (Jake Johnson), picks up where Audrey left off with her boyfriend (Ron Livingston) and, rather unsuccessfully, tries to assume Audrey’s realty job.

Kazan shows off her talent by convincingly playing two distinct characters. As much as the film seems to reuse the good twin/bad twin trope, Kazan is too talented to let her characters be that simple. Laurel may be meek, naive and clumsy, and Audrey may be selfish and vain, but Kazan successfully demonstrates how they are both so much more, even when the script fails to address their individual complexities.

The scenes between Johnson and Kazan are also rather charming, even if Johnson’s character isn’t given much room to be more than a friendlier version of his character on “New Girl.”

The movie also contains a lot of appealing, quirky details. Laurel and Audrey’s father paints forgeries of famous paintings like the Mona Lisa, Audrey is employed at a realty firm which only sells houses that look like storybook homes, and Laurel and Basel sneak into their neighbor’s pool and pretend they are a fictitious couple named “The Browns.”

The focus on these few, very charming points is part of the reason why “The Pretty One” can not wrench a heartfelt reaction from viewers, even as they watch Laurel come to grips with her sister’s death. The movie spends too much time being cute without establishing that the main character’s vehicle for her romance and supposed transformation is the death of her sister. Thus, Laurel’s emotional reactions come across as disjointed and odd.

Overall, “The Pretty One” attempts to be a chronicle of the trauma of losing your twin, a coming-of-age story about finding your own identity and a cute romantic comedy all at once. However, the movie is not really successful at any of the above after trying to fit all the grief, love and awkwardness of its many plot points into just 90 minutes.

While the movie has some good actors and an appealing set, they never make up for an overly-ambitious storyline. An hour and a half is simply not enough time for three different types of movies to cohabit in one script.

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Regina Napolitano
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