Basically (Ari Aster, 2014, US)

Before rising to prominence with the horror sensations Hereditary and Midsommar, director Ari Aster made several short films. Basically, made in 2014, is one such short film. The film opens with a confrontation between a woman, and another woman who appears to be resting on her couch. We quickly learn that the angry woman is an actress and that her mother is a former actress. The film immediately breaks the fourth wall, with the young angry woman addressing the camera directly, and introducing us to various people in her life, in various outfits.

For those familiar with Aster's horror films, it will come as something of a surprise that he is dabbling in comedy here. But given that the director's next film is going to be a dark comedy with Joaquin Phoenix called Disappointment Boulevard, it is clear that the director has an interest in comedy. It is unclear at first what the point of Basically is. At first glance, it appears that Aster is attempting to skewer this type of overprivileged actress. But if the film's intention was just to skewer this kind of person, the joke begins to run stale after the first five minutes.

The film seems to be an exercise in various stylings. While some have compared the film to Wes Anderson, it is clear that the tableau stylings of Roy Andersson are also an influence here, as well as perhaps Yorgos Lanthimos. The film redeems itself toward the end by Rachel Brosnahan's character gradually becoming more introspective throughout the film. While flawed, it nevertheless shows the promise of its director. Even if it is more of an exercise than anything else, Basically is worth watching for fans of Ari Aster to see how his style and sensibility have developed over time, and how they will develop in the future.



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