Gary King is a director I’ve been excited about ever since I first reviewed a short from him several years ago. He’s done nothing but impress ever since, and now he’s back with his latest film, and the first film of The Loneliness Trilogy, What’s Up Lovely.
This film is different from his previous endeavors. His earlier films were all multiple character affairs, while this one, though it has multiple characters, only really focuses on one girl in particular named Luci (Jenn Dees). Luci has lost her job, and on top of that, she has insomnia, so she wanders the streets at night exploring the city and following people, even to the point of watching people having conversations and making up dialogue for them.
While one would hesitate to call this an art film, in many ways it is one. The visuals are very surreal, and much of the film was shot in out of the way areas of New York City in the middle of the night when there was no one around because he wanted to convey the feeling of aloneness in big city. Gary has always had a great aptitude for creating a visual look in his films that are not only appropriate to the story, but that suck the user into whatever story he’s telling. This was used to great effect in his film New York Lately, which was a simply amazing film on every level.
On a technical level, this film is incredible, although I do think the blurred background motion effect might have been a bit overused. In fact, everything about this film technically is excellent, and I expected no less. Where the film will get a little iffy with some viewers is in the depths of the story.
The story in this film is actually quite interesting, and it really shines in the parts where it’s following Luci around the city and documenting her encounters with random people. Jenn Dees does a wonderful job with these parts of the film. I’m not really sure how to describe her performance. It’s sort of a combination of that quiet weirdness that takes you over when you’re sleep deprived and the quiet boredom you feel when you can’t sleep. Yes, I used the word quiet twice, as she doesn’t talk very much outside of the narration. Mostly she just quietly observes her surroundings and the various people she encounters. She plays the role perfectly in these parts of the film, and her performance matches the visuals and the settings she’s in extremely well. However, for me at least, the film takes a wrong turn near the end.
At some point, about 90% of the way through the film, Luci ends up in a club alone with a bartender who offers her two blue drinks and tells her that each of them represents what basically amounts to a different life choice. This is where the film takes a left turn from what made it so great and goes down a path I just wasn’t getting. Everything sort of goes random from this point on, with no continuity or reason to any of it, and finally ends up with an interminably long collecting of scenes of Luci runing through the city, out of the city and up onto an overlook where she can see a beautiful green expanse. There’s another aspect to this part as well that I won’t get into here because I’d have to get into stuff that led up to it to explain it all, but this end section of the movie didn’t make any sense at all, and really started dragging with all the shots of her running.
Now, that said, Gary actually intended for people to decide on their own what the meaning was, and that’s fine. I just personally enjoyed the more "normal" parts of the film that followed her as she explored the city at night. The only thing I could personally gather from the end is that the whole thing was a dream pretty much from start to finish. The end got really random and jumped around a lot, as dreams can do. So that was my personal interpretation of it. Still, for me the ending was more dragging than it was interesting. The rest of the film however, I absolutely loved.
One particular scene that was a favorite of mine is when Luci basically has an old man dumped on her by an uncaring daughter-in-law who asked her to take him to Grand Central Station because she was in a hurry to get somewhere. The old man can’t speak English, and yet he and Luci are able to talk along the way, and once they get to the station, there’s just an absolutely gorgeous scene of them standing between two trains. Not only was this scene probably my favorite in the the whole film, but visually it was just perfection.
So to sum it up, I loved everything about this film except for the ending, which didn’t work all that well for me. The rest of the film however was golden, and I’m really looking forward to seeing Gary’s next two entries in the trilogy. I really love how he’s done a film that, while it includes some side characters here and there, really just focuses on one person and not only allows us a glimpse into her mind and her life, but also shows us the beauty and the solitude one can experience in a city at night. I love depth like that in a film, and this is one you’re definitely going to want to check out.
If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can visit the film’s website at http://www.whatsuplovely.com.