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Thread: THIS CLOSENESS (Kit Zauhar 2023)

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    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    THIS CLOSENESS (Kit Zauhar 2023)




    A keenly observant new Airbnb awkwardness drama

    Leslie Felperin in an enthusiastic Hollywood Reporter review (not unjustified, though the following review may contain more reservations) says This Closeness will get filmmaker Kit Zauhar characterized as "mumblecore 2.0 or 3.0 or whatever" but that she "is a miniaturist with her own distinct directorial sensibility that’s compelling and unique in and of itself." The miniature is a small Airbnb sort of space where 20-something couple Tessa (Zauhar) and Ben (Zane Pais), in Philly for a high school reunion weekend, briefly rent a bedroom in clean but severe apartment occupied by a withdrawn host, also 20-something, known as Adam (Ian Edlund), who is doing this at someone's suggestion to meet people. And this is above all a portrait of the oddities of today's white American 20-something generation. But above even that, it's about the improprieties and inconveniences of suddenly having to share your private space with someone you don't know. This is not, obviously, a horror movie, as films with such setups can be. It's a dramedy, a study of a segment of generational mores and male-female relations.

    No, it's not mumblecore, because it works up a pretty good head of steam as soon as Tessa and Ben start fighting over Lizzy (Jessie Pinnick), an old friend Ben brings back to the flat and drinks beer in the kitchen with. They're here for Ben's high school class reunion and Lizzy was a classmate. More than that, she goes on in front of Tessa about how madly in love with Ben she was even when his face was red and pimply. Tessa agrees; she's photos of Ben back then that show he was very cute. Perhaps she's not angry over this when they fight rather loudly next day, but at Lizzy and Ben's tactlessness in getting drunk together in the kitchen, right in front of her. This is another broach of intimacy, as the whole high school reunion itself is, in a way, for Tessa. Nonetheless Tessa will make her next YouTube with herself and Lizzy.

    And what of Adam? The writing gives him a mysterious relationship with Lance, his former roommate, who set up the Airbnb listing and, Adam says, is gone now to be with a very ill mother. Perhaps so. Adam isn't really a 100% nerd, though in the nerd position here. He wears glasses, but is tall and good looking, though not as ripped and "cute" as Ben, as we are shown very prominently whenever Ben pulls his shirt off, and when Ben and Tessa dance, violently, in their room in their underwear, to music on earbuds. This and the big post-Lizzy argument and the fuss about removing the bedroom window air conditioner (doing which causes Adam to cut his hand) and all the times they make messes in the kitchen they don't at first clean up - all that show Ben and Tessa to be pretty annoying weekend "guests", more so than Adam is nerdy or weird. When Adam says Lance suggested the Airbnb slot will him meet people, but if they "suck" he'll soon be rid of them, Do we suck? Lizzy asks: Adam says he doesn't know yet. We may sympathize with Adam.

    Tessa is like an "influencer," a modern role spotlighted in Triangle of Sadness, only she is known for her channel offering ASMR or autonomous sensory meridian response videos, something involving soothingness and tingling down the back with a whole hunk of YouTube space now. (I recently discovered ASMR with Cédric Villani's French-accented English lectures on mathematics, which are offered on YouTube as having ASMR effects. I've learned a lot about Villani, but haven't had that tingle down my spine yet.)

    Among the contretemps that happen is that Ben comes back from the big reunion event to find Tessa giving Adam, who has returned all sweaty from an "ultimate frisbee" session, a soothing post-shower ASMR massage - out of pity, supposedly, after he gives her a real lonely guy speech. One of the film's best passages is when, afterwards, Ben and Tessa have a big nasty loud private fight over this and it morphs into romancing and lovemaking. This jealousy is safe and sexy, the role-switching, though unacknowledged, seems practiced and skillful.

    But then - remember Adam's nerd status isn't 100% - he has a date, with an Asian American girl, perhaps inspired by Tessa's being part Asian, and at the end of it they have sex, hot and fast, and he encourages her to make as much noise as possible: revenge noise sex, which makes clueless Ben realize how thin the walls are, and perhaps for a moment sense how the other guy feels.

    There are various things that are great about Kit Zauhar's accomplished little film. It's continually surprising how something so low-keyed and uneventful winds up being so dramatic from scene to scene. It's also surprising how fully everyone comes to life despite the filter of satire through which they are so often seen. Finally, Adam, the lonely, weird host, is fascinating because despite being the linchpin of the screenplay, he remains mysterious, partly real, partly a mystery. We need to watch for what Kit Zauhar does in future.

    This Closeness, 88 mins., Zauhar's second feature, debuted at Austin (SXSW) Mar. 10, 2023, also showing at Seattle, the Champs-Élysées festival, New Hampshire, Philadelphia. US limited theatrical release Jun. 7, 2024 at IFC Center, NYC; internet release Jul. 3, 2024. No Metacritic rating yet, but so far both scores 80%.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-05-2024 at 03:31 PM.


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