AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL 2012
By Don Simpson | October 23, 2012
Director: Alexander Poe
Writer: Alexander Poe
Starring: Jennifer Carpenter, Kristen Connolly, Alexander Poe, Noah Bean, Teddy Bergman
Graham (Alexander Poe) finds himself aimless and depressed after yet another failed relationship. One night, he runs into one of his ex-girlfriends — Laura (Kristen Connolly) — at a party. Despite the fact that Laura and Graham share a few mutual friends, Graham assumes that Laura’s appearance at the party is destiny. He immediately falls head-over-heels in love with Laura, but remains confused about whether or not she is romantically interested in him. No matter what happens, the on screen events become prime fodder for his latest literary work. All the while, Graham’s best friend Kate (Jennifer Carpenter) — who also happens to be another of his ex-girlfriends — confides in him about a boyfriend who is apparently cheating on her. The twist is that Graham is in love with the other woman.
Ex-Girlfriends is a deftly written film that feels much more literary than cinematic. That is not necessarily a bad thing, it just means that the cinematic devises play second fiddle to the writing and performances. Typically, when a film plays so blatantly with the perspective of the narrative, the result is something that is overtly writerly. Somehow, writer-director Alexander Poe is able to pull off this trick while maintaining a high level of naturalism. Sure, we are made aware that the story is being told by the Graham; he is a writer and this is his autobiographical tale. To add another level of meta-ness, Poe plays Graham. The story is told from Graham’s perspective and therefore inherently biased. The only difference between Poe, the author of the film, and Poe’s character is that the writer-director understands that he is creating a work of fiction while Graham is too naive an author to distinguish between truth and fiction. For example, the criticisms he receives from his classmates about his story seem more like personal barbs than critiques of his work; as if they are judging his motives and actions rather than those of his story’s character. Poe, however, makes note of these criticisms — which also play as critiques of his film — and seeks to improve upon them as the narrative progresses. This self-criticism is a neat little trick by Poe, as he confronts many of the possible accusations that could be made about the film’s opening act. Essentially, Poe senses exactly what film critics are probably thinking and he deals with it by blaming it on Graham’s inherently warped perspective. Poe’s on-screen critics do, however, fail to compliment him on the two impressively written female protagonists — let’s just hope film critics (and audiences) are more astute and pick up on that.