Movie Review: Horse Girl

Movie Review: Horse Girl


Genre: Drama

Rating: R

Running Time: 104 mins.

Where Can You See It?: Netflix

Premise: Sarah (Alison Brie), a socially awkward introvert who fancies horses and a TV show called Purgatory, finds her quiet life spiraling out of control when weird dreams she's been having start creeping into her reality. Convinced she's the clone of her dead grandma, Sarah sets out to uncover the truth behind these mysterious dreams.

Behind-the-Scenes: Premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, even though Netflix already had the rights to it. This is Brie's first credited screenplay. She co-wrote the flick with director Jeff Baena, who previously worked with Brie on Life After Beth, The Little Hours, and Joshy. Brie said the film is based on her own family's mental health history with paranoid schizophrenia and depression.

The Good: Starts out like a prototypical Sundance indie, full of quirky characters with quirky habits (Sarah makes anklets for horses and friends) in quirky locations (Sarah works at an arts-and-crafts store) that seems primarily played for light laughs, but gradually switches gears into something more surreal and disturbing. Brie is excellent playing a woman who honestly believes everything happening to her, no matter how crazy it gets. Her slow descent into madness is effectively conveyed with some cool visuals, and pleasingly disorienting given that Sarah (and the film around her) mostly manages to maintain at least one foot in reality. There's a great gag involving Sarah's roommate's jerky boyfriend coming up with a 12-track freestyle rap concept album called "Baker's Dozen."

The Bad: The film's obviously low budget acts as a constraint on some of the sci-fi visuals. Its take on mental illness lacks originality (alien abductions, cloning - been there, done that), and the ending is a real cop-out. It feels like the filmmakers were so scared of over-explanation that they failed to commit to any explanation. The script leaves several loose threads dangling, with seemingly important characters abandoned, and fails to come together in a satisfying way. It's a shame too because the movie had a lot of potential, but a bad ending can really wipe out any goodwill earned before then.

Should You See It?: No. This is another one of those passable but eminently skippable Netflix films that come and go with very little fanfare. Anyone remember Earthquake Bird?

Star Rating: **1/2 out of 5 stars

Better Than: Welcome to Me

Worse Than: Take Shelter, Lars and the Real Girl

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