Horse Girl (2020)
Director: Jeff Baena
Writers: Jeff Baena and Alison Brie
Starring: Alison Brie, Debby Ryan, John Reynolds, Molly Shannon, John Ortiz, and Paul Reiser
Plot: An shy and awkward girl with a family history of mental illness starts to believe that she has been kidnapped by aliens and may be a clone of her grandmother.
Review: Let me just start by pointing out that watching this and Timmy Failure back to back was an interesting experience. They both feature characters that very much live in their imaginations but in movies that couldn’t be more tonally different. And, as with Timmy Failure, my feelings on this one are complicated. Horse Girl is currently sitting at 59% on Rotten Tomatoes. Having watched it, that feels about right. It’s a movie that has a lot of really good stuff going for it, but unfortunately feels a bit muddled.
As always, I’d like to start with talking about the positives. Alison Brie gives a knockout performance in this movie. Her character starts off the movie shy, awkward, and super unconfident. It’s not a realm that I’ve really seen Brie in before, but she nails it. We all know a girl like this and it felt very real. Then, as the movie progresses, we start to see her lose it. She does an excellent job here as well. You feel super bad for her throughout. There is one sequence in particular that was heartbreaking, as she tells this guy she’s been talking to about her beliefs. It starts off with such joy and ends in tragedy as he starts to realize just how far she’s slipped. To see her emotions change that rapidly was quite impressive. And you never stop believing that what she is experiencing is her truth. She 100% thinks that all of this crazy stuff is happening to her. I hope we see Alison Brie in more roles like this because I feel like she’s been unjustly ignored for dramatic parts.
I also thought the directing was well done. I haven’t seen any other Jeff Banea movies, but the dude clearly has talent. The visuals were all super impressive. A lot of the shots were well composed. And, he managed to make things just dreamlike enough that you were never really sure what was real or what was imaginary. (More on that later.) But, to me the most impressive part, was how they decided to reveal the main characters tragic history. It never felt like an exposition dump. We’d meet a new character and then have thing reveled to us in a super organic way without it being spoonfed to us.
(For the second time in a row LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD, kind of, sort of, not really) Speaking of being spoonfed, I wish this movie isn’t as ambiguous as it is. I’m usually down for a mysterious ending, but I like for there to some kind of hint at what interpretation we’re supposed to make of it. Horse Girl, to me, left it too wide open. Is she going crazy? Are there actual aliens? Both have too much evidence presented for me to even form my own opinion. I usually love to watch “Ending Explained” videos on Youtube afterwards and then come up with my own theory. All of the videos on Horse Girl just confused me more because you have to ignore large chunks of the movie to believe any of them. I can see why this would turn off a huge chunk of the audience. It bugged me, but not enough to really toss the whole thing out.
TL;DR: Alison Brie turns in a terrific performance in the emotionally captivating Horse Girl. I just wish the ending wasn’t quite so ambiguous.
Score: 7/10 (Good)