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The Pretty One (9/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 90 minutes.

OK for children.

This small indie comes close to perfection. It’s a sweet story of a young girl, Laurel, who feels unappreciated by the world and how she deals with it and gets to really know herself, which is to assume the identity of her twin sister, Audrey (who has left home to live in another city), when she dies in an automobile accident.

Zoe Kazan, who made such a big hit starring in Ruby Sparks (2012), which she wrote, gives a touching performance as the surviving twin (well, she’s both twins but Audrey dies in the first 20 minutes). If you’ve ever felt unappreciated this movie will strike home and it does so because of Kazan’s performance.

It’s not that easy to portray twins, but Kazan did it admirably. Explains writer/director Jenée Lamarque, making her feature film debut, explains, “During the scenes where the twins are having a conversation, Zoe would always act with (her body double) Katherine Macanufo. We had about a week of rehearsal before shooting where they worked together, so that the audience could feel that connection across the split screen. Zoe would act as one character first, then come back and replicate what Katherine had done, and vice-versa.”

For the shots in which they spoke with each other, Lamarque used a technique first tried at the dawn of the film age by Georges Melies, locking off the camera and shooting plates, so half of the camera lens is blocked the first time and the other half is blocked the second time. According to Lamarque, it takes three times as much time to accomplish this than if there were two actors involved.

Kazan’s performance pretending to be someone she is not and fooling those who knew Audrey well is not the only one that stands out here. John Carroll Lynch gives a touching performance as Laurel’s widower father who finds it difficult to let her know how much he appreciates, relies upon, and misses her. Jake Johnson winningly plays Basel, Audrey’s next door neighbor and tenant. Audrey can’t abide him, but Laurel falls for him and his unique humor.

This is an intuitive, sometimes funny and sometimes poignant, movie that is thoroughly rewarding.