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‘Golden Exits’ Sundance Review: Miserable New Yorkers Torture Emily Browning

Alex Ross Perry film attracted a ton of stars– and saw nearly 30 people walk out

There’s a moment in Alex Ross Perry’s “Golden Exits” where star Emily Browning says she’s surprised that the high-brow job she just landed even exists.

Some members of the audience at Sundance’s Library Theater, where the film had its world premiere on Sunday evening, might have wondered the same about the film.

Browning plays 25-year-old Australian Naomi, in New York on a work visa as the assistant to archivist Nick (Adam Horovitz), who organizes and stores the minutia in the lives of important people. (They’re more common than you think, plus Beyonce has one.)

In Ross Perry’ New York, the struggling upper-middle and upper-upper class characters of this story torture and project their anxieties, failures and fears onto a visiting girl looking for love and enough friends to start a group text.

Naomi immediately threatens Nick’s beautiful therapist wife Alyssa (Chloe Sevigny, who was born to wear cashmere and gold watches and make movies about unhappy Manhattan couples, but is somehow underserved by this material). Alyssa’s sister Gwen (a show-stealing Mary-Louise Parker) is all too happy to stoke this fire, and extoll the virtue of her own sex-filed and empowered single life — which doesn’t appear that sexy or empowering, by design.

Meanwhile, Naomi encounters a cast of characters that includes old family friend Buddy (Jason Schwartzman), his jealous wife Jess (Analeigh Tipton) and her excessively self-analytical sister Sam (Lily Rabe).

Naomi is manipulated, fetishized, demoralized and rejected by this group of interconnected monsters in what is easily the worst summer job ever.  The film amounts to a series of scenes in which two or three characters express regret, talk trash about the person who just left the room or abuse the Aussie girl.

Ross Perry’s previous cinematographer Sean Price Williams gives us a lovely, sepia-toned New York and a piano-heavy score to set an emotional tone that’s never quite achieved in Ross Perry’s script.

Despite the momentum for “Golden Exits” heading into the Sundance premiere, it didn’t land.  The existential problems of beautiful urbane people is usually a safe bet for this crowd, but nothing in the relationship dynamics here managed to stick.

While jury member Gale Garcia Bernal, actor Tim Robbins, Aubrey Plaza and Nick Offerman all packed the 468-seat theater, TheWrap counted roughly 30 walkouts during the first hour of the 94-minute film.

We wouldn’t call that kind of exit golden.

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