Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Movie Review: Everyone Else

Everyone Else ****
Directed by:
Maren Ade.
Written By: Maren Ade.
Starring: Birgit Minichmayr (Gitti), Lars Eidinger (Chris), Hans-Jochen Wagner (Hans), Nicole Marischka (Sana).

Everyone Else is at times a painful film to watch. It is film about a relationship between two young people that has come to an impasse. There are very few movies that detail this time in a couple relationship – the honeymoon period where simply being with each other was good enough is over, but they have yet to figure out if they are really going to be together long term. They have trouble communicating with each other – both holding back too many secrets from the other one. At the end of the film, you cannot tell if it’s a happy or sad ending – because it’s not really an ending at all.

Chris (Lars Eidinger) is a young architect who is struggling to find work. He is ambitious, and has a lot of big ideas, but is too idealistic. He refuses to compromise on anything, and as such, the people who hire architects – who want some input into what they are paying for – are often looking elsewhere. He remains lost in his own head – reading constantly and talking a big game that is leading nowhere. On the other hand Gitti (Birgit Minichmayr) is a somewhat flighty, impulsive publicist for a bunch of bands no one has ever heard of. She is more impulsive than Chris, and often cannot stop herself from rambling on and on – even though it embarrasses Chris. This German couple is vacationing in Sardinia, staying in the home of Chris’ wealthy parents, although they spend much time insulting their bourgeois surroundings.

The two, it seems, have a real problem with communication. Chris cannot bring himself to say “I love you” to Gitti – instead answering her words with only a kiss. He also cannot admit to her when he loses out on yet another contract bid, because his design was too complex. This doesn’t come out until a dinner with two “friends” of Chris’ from Germany – Hans, a former classmate of Chris’, who is doing well financially, and his wife Sana. These two seem to be a mirror of Chris and Gitti – and yet they are happy, and successful in their jobs and with each other, and are about to welcome their first baby. The tension at this dinner – and one later in the movie – is palpable, because it’s clear that Chris hates Hans, and yet yearns for his approval. He even gets mad at Gitti for defending him when Hans goes on a patronizing spiel about his career. This two scenes are the real heart of the film – they show the future of what Chris and Gitti could become if they choose to – and they don’t much like it.

There comes a time in everyone’s lives when a decision has to be made. At certain times, you have to compromise your ideals in order to get the job done. Chris seems unwilling to do this – he has his vision, and even if no one else out there agrees with him, he will stick by it to the bitter end. And this is the attitude he takes with Gitti as well – he knows what he wants in a girlfriend, and will not compromise his ideals for her. Gitti tries so hard to make Chris happy – but is reaching a point where she wonders if she ever will be able to – and whether she still wants to even try. She has her own issues – torn between wanted to be comfortable, and becoming too bourgeois, she fights hopelessly with herself about a dress she bought, and yet is embarrassed when Chris insults his mother’s love of knickknacks.

Everyone Else is not an easy film to watch. It really does lay these two people bare in front of us in way that brought to mind Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage, about the years in the life of a couple who is married than divorced but are constantly drawn back to each other. This movie has that same sense of honesty – the same unblinking gaze and willingness to follow these two people further down in the mess they have created. It is an uncomfortable film to say the least. Yet writer director Maren Ade, with a great assist from her two great actors, has done something truly great in the film. Whether we want to admit it or not, at one point we were all Chris and Gitti.

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