What would you do if you learned your more popular and successful identical twin was mistakenly identified as yourself following a tragic accident that killed her or him? Would you fess up and tell the truth, or be tempted to assume their identity as the ticket to a better life?
These are the questions confronting Laurel (played by Zoe Kazan, granddaughter of classic movie director Elia Kazan) in Jenee LaMarque's The Pretty One (opening today in Los Angeles, at the Sundance Sunset in West Hollywood, in addition to Edwards University Town Center 6 in Orange County). Once she learns her twin sister, Audrey (also Kazan, naturally, though briefly), died and was burned beyond recognition after the truck in which they were both traveling was struck in a head-on collision, the shy, mousy Laurel decides to present herself as her wheeling and dealing real estate agent sibling. She enjoys surprising acceptance as Audrey, even finding love with her late sister's antagonistic tenant (New Girl's Jake Johnson, with whom Kazan shares good chemistry).
Given its morbid, somewhat clichéd premise, I was pleasantly surprised by The Pretty One. While no classic, it is both refreshingly quirky and more sensitive than expected. Laurel and Audrey are well-differentiated physically and vocally by Kazan, and Anne Costa's excellent production design also delineates well the sisters' very separate lives. The film also incorporates a nice, low-key electronic score by Julian Wass as well as a handful of original songs and covers. A first-rate supporting cast (including Ron Livingston, with whom Johnson co-starred in last year's very good Drinking Buddies) is the icing on this semi-psycho-twin cake.
Do let me add my voice too to the chorus of hosannas for The Lego Movie, the current family-friendly blockbuster. I'm not one to use the word brilliant very often but this endlessly inventive toy-inspired comedy is brilliantly designed and animated, even if it goes on a little too long and gets a bit treacly toward the end. Whether you are a kid or an adult, it is not to be missed.
The Pretty One: B
The Lego Movie: B+
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.