Janet Planet, What in the World?

I may be related to Annie Baker, since her debut movie Janet Planet is a globalist perspective film, to the beat of a different drummer project like I might do. Janet Planet employs a passionate slapped on sculpture technique where you can feel the mass amount of thought and work to get to a final project, yet can look wonky to an outsider. The after effects of this film made me wonder how the heck Celine Song’s first film, Past Lives, looked so pristine. But I digress…

I do have Annie Baker experience in that I went to see her play The Flick (which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2014) in NYC many years ago.

Janet Planet is the story of a single Mom vintage 1990’s living in rural Northampton, Mass. with her soon to be sixth grader daughter. As a single woman, Janet finds male companionship easily, not always making the best decisions with whom to be close. I can relate having made some of those same blunders. Her daughter is primarily a quiet witness to these escapades and an old soul as a result.

The two actresses Julianne Nicholson (Mom Janet) and Zoe Ziegler (the daughter Lacy) are perfect in their roles. The three minor characters that roll in and out of their lives were also naturals. The movie narrative has organization in the focus of three of Janet’s ‘partners’ a long with her and her daughter’s daily habits and routines.

The odd parts deal with sound design. Songs and nature sounds are full volume, yet dialogue, especially at the beginning seems to be recorded far away. Fortunately we were in what appeared to be a close captioned theater at AMC Bradenton and were saved by subtitles. *Update, just read on Rotten Tomatoes that CC is on this film everywhere (and rightly so, it’s necessary).

Lincoln Center Arts (God Bless them) is the cultural mecca who, thus far, are the only organization to have the writer/director Annie Baker on for an interview. While the interview touched on sound, it was more about the days of nature sounds the sound designer captured and nothing about the overly quiet dialogue. I guess I would have liked to know if this was a choice…perhaps symbolic of us giving in to our innate (in the wild) nature when it comes to relationship choices.

The other quirky bit about this film is the camera angle choice to film just from the eyes up of some characters and also characters in the shadows of darkness. Again, this might speak to our nocturnal animalistic characteristics. These features also were reminiscent of Jeanne Dielman by Chantal Ackerman, where the quiet surface of the film is the flimsy layer covering molten lava just below the surface.

By Goldie

Aspiring writer who has retired from the institution of education. I've written plays, three of which have been performed both in Rochester NY and here in Sarasota FL. I also write stand up and obviously, film critique. My comment section does not work, so please email me your comments at irun2eatpizza@hotmail.com

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