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Review: Horse Girl (2020)

Horse Girl (2020)

Directed by: Jeff Baena

Premise: A shy woman (Alison Brie) whose family has a history of mental illness questions what she perceives to be reality. Her dreams overlap with waking life and she suspects that there might be more to her identity than she realizes.  

What Works: Horse Girl is a creation of Duplass Brothers Productions, the company behind such offbeat titles as Safety Not Guaranteed and Creep. Horse Girl is consistent with the company’s other films. The picture is weird and has an unusual premise but it is also frequently funny and has lots of great character moments. The film succeeds in large part because of its performances. Alison Brie is cast in the lead role and she plays her character in a way that is empathetic. She has a yearning for human connection that’s obvious but not overplayed. As Brie’s character starts to question the nature of her reality, she is pushed to the breaking point and Brie plays this not as a nut but as a woman who is genuinely confused about what is happening to her. Horse Girl also has a notable supporting performance by John Reynolds as a guy who takes a romantic interest in Brie’s character. Their romance is sweet and Reynolds has a likable awkwardness that makes their relationship credible. The filmmakers do an effective job manipulating reality and some sequences are impressively staged and cut together to visualize the break down in the title character’s sense of reality.

What Doesn’t: Horse Girl hinges upon a mystery. The memory and identity of Alison Brie’s character is fractured and she assembles the pieces into a conspiracy theory that might be true or might be a paranoid delusion. The resolution of that mystery is not satisfying. That’s partly because the filmmakers never stop elaborating on their premise. Reality gets increasingly fantastic in ways that become frustrating instead of engaging. A lot of pieces don’t pay off; the title of Horse Girl refers to the title character’s equestrian interests. It’s implied that she was involved in a horse riding accident but that never really fits into the rest of this story. Other strange phenomena are similarly unexplained. The picture leaves the viewer with an impression of randomness. While that fits with the chaotic nature of Brie’s character and her slippery grasp of reality, the final portion of the movie comes across as a series of random images with no revelation or meaning to be gleaned from them.

DVD extras: Currently available on Netflix.

Bottom Line: Horse Girl never comes together. It has a few good performances, especially by Alison Brie, but the film is too scattershot and suffers too many red herrings.

Episode: #815 (August 30, 2020)