Easy Living, 2017.
Directed by Adam Keleman.
Starring Caroline Dhavernas, Elizabeth Marvel, Daniel Eric Gold, and Charlie Hofheimer.
Sherry, a self-destructive makeup saleswoman, hopes a new man and business venture will provide her a fresh start. After her plans are foiled, she takes control of her life in a dramatic turn of events.
Easy Living is fundamentally about control.
It’s the story of Sherry, a door-to-door makeup saleswoman, and the lack of control she has over her life. Sherry is a self-destructive character, one spiraling from extreme to extreme; it’s made immediately clear that she occupies a liminal space within her own life, at a remove from those around her. Caroline Dhavernas gives a note-perfect performance throughout; she embodies the messy, fractured character, managing to strike the exact balance between off-putting and engaging. A lot about the character is left implicit, and this is carried through Dhavernas’ work; it’s perhaps inaccurate to say Sherry has any real interiority, but that’s likely an inevitable consequence of this non-traditional character study.
To understand that the movie is about control is also to understand the ending – an ending which otherwise can seem outlandish to the point of being out of place.
The final act of the movie sees Sherry held at gunpoint, taken hostage by a nervous and neurotic bankrobber – it’s not long before she turns the table on him, though, threatening him with a gun of her own. What follows is a sequence that will, if ever you found Sherry likable, certainly turn you against her; the dynamic is turned on its head entirely, as Sherry forces her would-be captor – Norman – to guide her around his house, inspecting his dialysis machine, before raping him and leaving.
It is, to say the least, not a straightforward ending. Certainly, it prompts a significant re-evaluation of both protagonist and short-lived antagonist; Norman is now cast as a vulnerable person making desperate choices to deal with illness, while Sherry is shown to be a far more unbalanced character than had been clear before. It’s difficult to call it a happy ending, per se; it’s one that drips with ambiguity and throws up more questions than it answers. Except actually, when it comes down to it, it is straightforward. If the movie has always been about Sherry taking back control, what can this be seen as apart from a microcosm of such? In a way, it’s the only resolution that could ever have been achieved; Sherry achieves total control, rendered essentially meaningless by the caveat that it wasn’t over her own life in the end.
It’s an ending that works better conceptually than in execution, to be blunt, and one easier to appreciate in the abstract when considering the movie rather than actually watching it. Indeed, rather than appreciate the thematic unity of the ending, it’s difficult to get past the unease of the rape scene – or non-consensual sex at gunpoint, if you want to get euphemistic about it.
Ultimately, Easy Living is… a strange movie. It’s one that’s much easier to appreciate as a whole rather than moment to moment, and certainly more so in subsequent consideration rather than actually watching it. Its final scenes dominate the movie, in a way that perhaps doesn’t serve it well; though it’s clever from a thematic standpoint, it distracts from the rest of the movie through the sheer difficulty of the scene. Undeniably, though, it’s an impressive debut feature from director Adam Keleman, one that promises more interesting movies going forward.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★