This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Luka Stojcic’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
It’s not even worth it to dive into the discursive David Foster Wallace stuff, the diatribe against A Woman Under the Influence, the heated takedown of the problematic lyrics of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, or the author of the source material and his impressive political connections (his brother-in-law is the President of Iceland… hmm I wonder if he could have gotten some strings pulled? Maybe a book deal wrestled out of the effete hands of Simon & Schuster? Perhaps even a Netflix movie...)
There are two 20-minute sequences of the “Young Woman” (think I wrote something in sophomore year of high school that relied on a lack of tangible identity to generate narrative intrigue) and her boyfriend in a car, talking. Kaufman has about 10 angles that he cuts between, each shot lasting about 7 seconds. Every cut is based on the conceit of a character immediately talking after the one finishes, often with little connection to what the other one has just said. Some shots of wacky fixtures in the landscape thrown into the edit and unaddressed. It is hard to imagine a less involving way to stage this—devoid of rhythm, visual interest, and confidence. Kaufman is a deeply scared director.
I cannot imagine any other reason why he directs Toni Collette to such histrionic extremes or Jesse Plemons to such exhausting aloofness. What other way to show things “are not quite as they seem” than to suffocate us with kooky wide angles, eerily centered frames?
Kaufman’s picture is in fact slyly misogynistic. The Young Woman is ostensibly the story’s agent but it turns out the movie is not about her at all—it is about Jesse Plemons. The Young Woman laments Freudian “misogynistic claptrap,” and informs us of the “occupational hazards of being female”. The “occupational hazards” of being female are actually that a male novelist and a male director will utilize you as a mere cipher by which to dissect the male in the story, and his fears and his anxieties.