REVIEW: Basically [2014]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★


Rating: NR | Runtime: 15 minutes | Release Date: February 25th, 2014 (USA)
Studio: Henderson and Hussein Pictures
Director(s): Ari Aster
Writer(s): Ari Aster

“That’s just the rejection talking”

Even the most vain and vapid have moments of clarity. Whether they prove to be intentional or not is the question. So is it because Shandy (Rachel Brosnahan) has more to her than what appearances reveal that she’s able to turn colorfully vindictive soliloquies into philosophical quandaries worth contemplating beyond the laughter of her visual juxtapositions? Or is it merely because everyone has the agency to hit a home run if they simply talk in circles long enough to break free towards territory they never anticipated was within their reach? How much of our environment influences our personalities and how much does it stifle our potential? This is what’s available to decipher while watching Ari Aster‘s Basically if the sheer audacity of its star isn’t enough.

I’d argue it’s more than enough, though, because Brosnahan plays this role with a razor-sharp satirical wit. Her Shandy moves from rage to disillusionment and apathy to complete concentration with skill. She speaks to us without breathing from multiple places in her mansion, sometimes commenting on what’s around her and never quite how you’d expect. We become her diary of sorts: vessels to listen to her every thought and whim whether lamenting a role she lost in her living room, showing off property that allows her to define herself through material possessions while gyrating in a stripper cage, or speaking with full eye contact while someone performs oral sex on her in the sand. We experience Hollywood unfiltered with a hilarious eye focused upon the mundaneness of excess.

Shandy talks about what’s often little more than nonsense steeped in vitriol and unearned confidence while doing everything in her power to shirk responsibility or blame someone else. She talks back to those of her social status and blatantly ignores those below. Aster positions her within static frames so we can clearly experience the intentional incongruities of subject, place, and action. Sometimes Shandy is on the right side of the screen waxing on and on while the family’s maid cleans a window on the left. She’s simultaneously present and absent, her life driven by inconsequential desires and performative impulses that dictate her reality of nonexistence. Shandy is a commodity she prays will jump off the shelves so she can do even less than she already does.

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